Last month, the Practice Profile featuring Jon Mueller marked the beginning of a new series.  Each post in the series will highlight the creative practice of one individual, in order to explore the theme of this blog from another perspective.  Celebrating creative expression through dialogue in this way creates opportunity for interesting threads to be revealed.

This month I am excited to feature Linda Essig.  I have followed Linda’s blog, Creative Infrastructure, for more than a year, and it is my great pleasure to have her thoughts included here.

I began by asking two basic questions:

How would you describe your personal creative practice?


In what ways have you observed this practice informing your professional practice?

To which Linda replied,

“I find it difficult to separate the two. There is creative activity that I undertake that is not part of my professional practice, but a lot of my professional practice is creative or is about enabling the creativity of others. If creativity means coming up with new ideas (which is how I define it for my students) then perhaps creative practice is bringing those ideas to some level of actualization or, at least, publication.”

Emphasis on action, rather than sheer ideation or imagination, is integral to any conversation about creativity and creative practice.  Particular elements of creative practice may vary greatly from person to person, but commitment to action is a necessary constant.  The impulse to act upon a creative idea takes place in all contexts, and genuine creativity is not readily contained.  As Linda suggests,

“Creativity happens everywhere. I mean that in terms of my personal practice of creativity (some of my best ideas are developed while thinking sideways, thinking about something else) and in terms of the loci of creativity in our culture. Creativity happens in central city classrooms, in artist’s studios, in business conference rooms, and in every part of the country. This has always been true, but the democratized digital distribution of ideas makes the pervasiveness of creativity more obvious.”

As digital culture thrives, we gain the capacity to record and share evidence of actualized creativity with far greater ease.  Consider the presence of sites like Kickstarter and Etsy, and each software or app du jour that enables us to engage in some form of creative or artistic expression.  We only have to look as far as our mobil devices to access memorable examples of creativity such as Caine’s Arcade, Talk Back: The Bubble Project, or the story of a game designer now well-know for his solar system app. And certainly what circulates digitally represents only a fraction of the creativity that takes place in our daily lives.

Does the sharing move our collective creativity forward in some way?  Does the ubiquity of examples serve to catalyze more abundant creative impulses within ourselves and in our communities?  And, if so, does the impact occur closer to the stages of inspiration and ideation or does it also have an impact upon execution?

Execution, in contrast to ideation, favors consistency.  Linda offers the following thoughts,

“However, just because creativity happens everywhere doesn’t mean it is practiced everywhere. Practice implies intention and repetition. Thus, when I go into my kitchen and cook an interesting meal, I (or you) may consider that action creative but not part of my professional creative practice.

Conversely, when I approach my desk on Monday morning to write, that is creative practice ­ I create with intention, discipline, and practice.”

Many books have been written which describe the discipline needed to achieve a creative outcome.  Among my favorites is Twyla Tharp’s, The Creative Habit.  Certain lines from the book stayed with me long after the first reading.  For example,

“No one can give you your subject matter, your creative content; if they could, it would be their creation and not yours.  But there’s a process that generates creativity—and you can learn it.  And you can make it habitual.” 


Linda Essig heads ASU’s arts entrepreneurship program, p.a.v.e, which has helped launch 27 arts-based ventures into the Phoenix area and beyond since its inception in 2005.  She was Founding Director of the School of Theatre and Film in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts where she also served as Artistic Director of the school’s MainStage Season from 2004–2010. A professional lighting designer, Essig’s design for the ASU production of Suzan–Lori Parks’s “Venus” was part of the USA National Exhibit of theatrical design at the Prague Quadrennial in 2007. Essig has designed lighting for theatres throughout the country including Cleveland Playhouse, Milwaukee Rep, Missouri Rep, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Skylight Opera, La Mama ETC, Pioneer Theatre, Madison Repertory Theatre and others. She currently has funding from the Kauffman Foundation for her work on the p.a.v.e. program and has previously been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Tempe, and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. She is the author of articles and book chapters on both arts entrepreneurship and lighting design as well as two books: Lighting and the Design Idea (to be published in a third edition January 2012) and The Speed of Light: Dialogues on Lighting Design and Technological Change. She is a member of the boards of directors of the Phoenix Fringe Festival and the United States Institute for Theatre Technology.  Her blog, covers arts entrepreneurship, arts policy, higher education in the arts and, occasionally, cooking. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix

© 2012 Kira Campo