About a month ago, someone placed a pair of hipsterish glasses on a museum floor as a prank. Within minutes, a crowd gathered to take pictures of the new “work of art.” You could read this as a throwback to the Dada movement or you could view it as yet another ironic, cynical, postmodern statement about creativity and taste in a culture of pastiche.
And you’d be right.
But I can’t help but wonder if there is another take on this situation. See, those glasses are, indeed, a work of art. A team of people spent days on the design, with a sense of intentionality and artistic taste that you might miss as a casual consumer. Perhaps placing those glasses on the museum floor actually transformed the crowd from casual consumers to intentional appreciators. They became temporary curators of everyday design. I know, I know. That wasn’t the intention. However, maybe that was a side effect. Maybe those people left with a deeper appreciation for the elements of design in their world.
This is why I’m a sucker for flash mobs. I love the idea of a song breaking through the subway station, interrupting the monotony of a long ride and reminding the world that art doesn’t need to be confined to the walls of a museum. I love the disruption that happens when you least expect it and you realize momentarily that that art, wonder, creativity, design, beauty, and intentionality exist in our world. Magic is all around if we’re paying attention to it.
We live in a world packed with creativity. Look around you at every object. Someone designed that. Someone put hours into it before it ever made its way into your hands. The fact that this feels ordinary or even mundane says more about humanity than it does about creativity. The world is amazing. Creativity abounds. We just have to open our eyes.
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Share the Product
I mention this because I believe in the power of the launch. I love what happens when kids create work and it doesn’t just end up on the refrigerator. I love to see the change in motivation and student agency when they get to choose the audience.
This week, I’ve been listening to a Voxer group book study on Launch and it reminded me that amazing things are happening in our schools every day. Kids are creating, innovating, designing, and tinkering. Yet, most people don’t ever hear these stories because nobody is sharing them.
Some of this comes from a genuine sense of humility. We don’t want to brag. Yet, we forget that when we are promoting our students’ work, we aren’t self-promoting. We’re saying to kids, “The world needs your creative voice.” But I wonder how often the motivation is different. We are so used to these amazing things that we forget that they are amazing. They’ve become normal to us but they are still amazing to someone else.
Share the Process
While I believe in the power of an authentic audience, I also believe in the power of sharing your creative journey. I love the idea that Austin Kleon shares in Show Your Work, that we we should become documentarians telling the story of a creative journey. And, while he spoke of it in a more individualist lens, students can share their collective story by telling the story of an idea from start to finish.
My friend Tim Lauer does this all the time on Instagram and Twitter. As a principal, he’s always taking snapshots of the creative work his students are doing. This affirms the creative voice of the students but it also honors the creative work of the teachers who work as architects to design the spaces where innovation can thrive. It’s not self-promotion. It’s not branding. It’s simply storytelling at its core. And it’s awesome.
There is a powerful narrative right now telling the world that our schools are all broken and teachers are merely powerless pawns in the system. Cogs in a wheel in a factory style education system. It’s a popular theme in articles and news stories and even keynotes. But I don’t buy it. I think there are amazing creative things happening all around us if we’re willing to look . . . and when we’re willing to share.
When we share the creative process and the final products, we change the narrative and remind people that each classroom can, in fact, be a bastion of creativity and wonder.