Local author prescribes creativity for sick society

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 24, 2008

Robert Kelly, an associate professor at the University of Calgary, co-authored “Creative Expression . . .” and can be seen around Cochrane enjoying a hot brew.  Photo by Warren Harbeck

The global economic turmoil of the past few weeks has brought into sharp focus the inadequacy of the Information Age’s individualistic greed-driven philosophy of consumption and the educational processes that have brought us to this crisis. To sanity’s rescue comes a refreshing new book co-authored by Cochrane coffee companion and conceptual artist Dr. Robert Kelly.

Creative Expression, Creative Education: creativity as a primary rationale for education (Detselig Enterprises Ltd) is no mere textbook on the role of the arts in learning. Much more so, it is a call to re-engage imagination and creativity as a way of life – to embrace the Conceptual Age “driven by creativity, in which ideas are the primary currency” and the sharing and nurturing of them bring forth “new and wondrous forms.”

In fact, “creativity should be a primary rationale for education,” according to Robert and his co-author, poet and language scholar Carl Leggo.

“The predominant educational culture of standardization and convention must give way to a more balanced educational landscape that accommodates and embraces an educational culture of creativity.”

Readers – all readers, not just university types, but home-schooling parents and anyone else desiring to re-energize their embrace of life – are invited “to experience the joy of creating, teaching and learning as ways of being in the world that can lead to possibilities and hopefulness.”

The design of the book itself is a magnificent example of creativity. Even just casually thumbing through its imaginatively-illustrated pages draws one immediately to a tantalizing smorgasbord of 20 essays ranging from Judd Palmer’s “Notes on the Art of Doodling,” to John Gzowski’s “The Unexpected Moment,” to Allan Gordon Bell’s “Auragination; Musical Creation: A Personal View.”

Robert Kelly is an associate professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Calgary, where he is highly regarded by his students for his imaginative, motivating approaches in creative theory and practice. Carl Leggo is a professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia. From everything I’ve read of his so far, I can’t wait to sit down with him over a mug and gain a new coffee companion.

In the “Epilogue,” Carl emphasizes that this book’s approach toward creativity in education is to help people “find purpose and enjoyment in the chaos of existence” – to learn and live creatively, imaginatively, collaboratively, and enquiringly. “To live creatively,” he writes, “is to play with abandon . . . insatiably seeking after wonder.”

Readers of these weekly columns will know that one of my motivations in writing is a quote from Dostoevsky: “The world will be saved by beauty.” I think the great Russian author would be most pleased with Robert and Carl’s important step in that healing direction.

Cochrane’s Nan Boothby Memorial Library is hosting a public book launch of Creative Expression, Creative Education from 7-8:30 p.m., Oct. 15. The book is already available locally at Westlands Bookstore. For more information, check out www.robertkelly.ca.

© 2008 Warren Harbeck

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