Earlier this month the Art Educators of New Jersey held their annual conference in New Brunswick, NJ.  This year, like last, I delivered a 50 minute presentation on Studio Thinking and discussed how the Habits of Mind identified in the framework help to cultivate creative thinking skills.

Later that day, as I discussed the same topic over dinner, the conversation veered into the direction of ‘Creative vs. Artistic’.  Since the distinction between Creative and Artistic is often conflated, I offered an experience from my own life to illustrate the difference between those two concepts.  It went something like this:

I was recently asked to judge a group show for an arts organization in my community.  The theme selected for this show was fairly traditional and there were many works in the show that possessed notable artistic merit.  However, there was a single piece, entitled ‘The Tree of My Life’ which demonstrated a degree of creative merit which set it apart from other works in the show.  The work was painstakingly rendered, which lent further power to what was already a rich conceptual accomplishment.  The power in this work was meticulous execution, coupled with a *novel* idea. Relative to the other works in the show, ‘The Tree of Life’ exemplified creativity.

Is that which is artistic also creative?  Ipso facto, just like that? Perhaps!  It is my opinion that any original art object is, by default, creative.  But I also believe that not all art objects are E-Q-U-A-L-L-Y creative.

When we seek to evaluate the creativity of an object it is necessary to consider it in comparison to other works; knowing the available alternatives provides necessary insight about the yardstick being used to measure the creativity quotient.

Likewise, when considering an idea or solution that is not artistic in nature, we are also wise to consider the many alternatives that might exist. Because, very often, with the sufficient investment of time and attention–that is, with deep engagement–solutions abound.  The finest examples of creativity I am able to name *not only* deliver a novel and effective solution, very often they also appear to be the solutions that are out-on-a-limb on the proverbial tree of life.

And, on the rare and marvelous occasion when a solution truly exemplifies creativity, that solution, regardless of  the domain, certainly qualifies as art.

© 2011 Kira Campo

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