A Collection of Reflections on Creativity
by artists, musicians, and educators.
A Return to Creativity
by Michael Shirtz
I don’t know about you, but if you’re like me, I think we are living in this kind of unreal world…as if we haven’t woken up from a bizarre dream. Each day we face a more realistic and grim saga unfolding. As this pandemic floods our country and washes over the world, it is easy for us to hunker down in silence, fear, and do what we can to hide from the uncertainties of what is occurring. Yet, at the same time, there is also something else happening. There is an emergence happening to explore humanity again. We are beginning to slow down and take time to reflect on our lives. And with that, comes this profound opportunity of people turning towards the arts, cultural offerings, and creativity.
Today, what are we turning to more than ever to aid us in these troubled times? We’re either finding our self-creative sides or searching for creative experiences. We are logging into streamed performances, taking virtual museum tours, watching art and music videos, and of course viewing movies. Actors and artists alike are sharing their talents to inspire others through every media platform available. When we walk through our neighborhood, we are seeing a development of chalk art on drive ways and sidewalks. People are moving their doodling habits into explorations of what their real potential might be with the pencil or the brush. Old traditions are returning such as journaling or letter writing. Cooking has moved from the quick fix to get a meal, to discovering the culinary art of good food prep…often times making it a family routine. Kids are engaging in the art of “pretending” again – where a big box from Amazon is now an airplane, boat, or part of a living room fort. Children “of all ages” are playing outside again with great excitement making the backyard a whole new world of intrigue, games, and excitement…enriching those important skills of imagination and creativity.
So many of these things we’ve lost due to our need for instant gratification and our over dependency on technology. But right now, life has slowed down and we are all learning those basic human functions and capabilities again. Letting our minds ponder, reflect, imagine, and create. Whatever happens on the other side of this horrifying time, I hope that we have learned a valuable lesson and that the need for arts and cultural, and simply slowing down, be more present in our lives.
I remember reading a story of someone asking Winston Churchill if he was planning to cut the funding for the arts for the war efforts during World War II. His response, “If we do that, then what are we fighting for?” How true. While we battle this virus, let us not forget the things that inspire us most…they come from our ability to imagine and create.
So, with the help of some very good friends in this business, we will begin releasing a series of thoughts and reflections by artists, actors, directors, musicians, and authors. We hope that these simple devotionals will help motivate your creativity during these times of uncertainty, and provide you some insight, joy, and inspiration.
I know many of us have anxieties about the world right now. We have fears about our jobs and where that next paycheck will come from. We are concerned about our families and friends. We are dealing with our own mental and physical health. We are balancing kids, work, and home in ways we never imagined. Some are taking care of parents, neighbors, and friends who can’t get out to take care of themselves. Others are doing what they can in making masks, shopping for others, and so much more. And, while we remember all of these frustrations we are all living with, let us also remember to take a few moments, and celebrate the blessings we do have - perhaps more grateful for them now than ever before. No matter how dark the days may be or sleepless our nights have become, let us remember to celebrate the blessings we have and share as one people.
Pamela and I wish you all good health and safety during this time. Our hearts go out to those dealing with COVID-19 and we keep you in our prayers daily. Thank you to our health officials, medical teams, and first responders for all they are doing to fight this pandemic. Together, we will pull through this and ‘create’ a new world. We hope you all have a life filled with Blue Skies.
How Creativity Refuels the Soul
by Dr. Sandra Mathias, conductor & educator
Creativity: using what we know in a new way to explore new regions of the heart and soul and one’s talent; using what we know in a new way to express our deepest emotions and feelings. How, or why, does creativity inspire/refuel the soul?
I think Plato expresses it best, through his words about music: Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. Could we replace the word ‘music’ with the world ‘creativity? Then, Plato’s thought would read: Creativity is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.
I think this clearly says how creativity inspires/refuels the soul, not only to one, but to the universe. Creativity surely gives wing to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. Whether creativity is exercised through singing, playing, or writing music, writing prose or poetry, dancing, painting, photographing, acting, reciting, building, cooking, or any skill; the soul becomes inspired and refueled through the process and Plato’s words.
How Creativity Inspires the Soul
by Rosalyn Shepherd, artist & educator
From the beginning at the age of 26 a self- taught artist, I was drawn to the features of the human face. Telling the story of people I did not know, but who’s faces appeared in the pages of my Essence magazines. As I got better at drawing, I began to use paint and pastels as my preferred media to capture the imagery that reflected all different forms of beauty in the African American culture. They were faces like mine but different at the same time. With almond shaped eyes, high cheek bones, full lips and noses of all different shapes and sizes. Both men and women confident but humble, with a sense of pride but in a quiet spirit. Each having their own unique story to tell without saying a word.
As I reflect on my years as an artist, I always knew that my talents were a gift from God, because I came by it so unconventionally. And as my relationship with Him grew stronger, He helped me to see that my art should be used to bring people closer to Him! So, I started writing poetry and found scripture to accompany the meaning of my artwork, or sometimes vice versa. It gave me such peace and inspired me to create a collection of work dedicated to God, “The Spirit Led Woman”. It was a series of paintings and pastel images that were meant to speak to African American women but could be appreciated by anyone after the heart of God. From these images, I created calendars, notecards, bookmarks, mugs and prints, anything that would allow people to take home a piece of my art and reflect on what God continues to do for them and through them. By doing so, I felt that I found a way to use my creativity to make a difference in the spiritual life of others and that, in turn inspires my soul!
I encourage everyone to look at your ability to create as a way to give back and inspire others. To bring happiness and encouragement especially during these trying times. But remember we are all part of God’s creation and that alone can inspire the soul!
Creativity and the World of Imagination
by Nick Hrutkay, professional theatre director
Can you remember back when you were young? Things were much simpler, and it was about having fun as a kid.
In this time where we as artists are navigating new ways to strengthen our connections and community through digital creativity, I love to come back to this extraordinary quote by actress Phylicia Rashad, “Before a child talks, they sing. Before they write, they draw. As soon as they stand, they dance. Art is fundamental to human expression.”
Unleash your inner Peter Pan. The beauty of what we see as a child and the kind of play that we experience as a child can be a way for us to get through tough times.
To the Creators
by Sharon Burch, arts administrator, music educator, author
One of the unexpected blessings of COVID-19, (for those who have escaped experiencing the virus thus far), is the global forced "reset" in our daily lives. It thrust us out of the frenetic hamster wheel and plopped us on the floor exposed and wondering what to do next. It forced us to slow down, pivot, and think, all at the same time.
Zoom quickly has become a household word as we share our lives and living rooms authentically. We see celebrities, musicians, and talk show hosts being real and transparent stripped of costumes, lighting, and makeup. We love seeing real people with real lives sharing the journey. We get to experience each others' hearts and heartbreaks authentically as the fear of COVID-19 hovers over us all or, unfortunately, hits too close to home. It is sad and beautiful at the same time. Authenticity in shared humanity is bringing us closer together regardless of race, creed, or color. This brings me to creativity.
There is a segment of our population that self-identify as creators. We carve out time to think, reflect, get in "the flow" or "the zone" consistently, and hone our skills to produce an inspired idea into a gift to be shared. But, there's a larger segment that has never thought of themselves as creative. This message is for you.
There is no denying that each and every one of us is creative. It's inherent to every human. If in no other time, it should be very obvious in how you are pivoting and redesigning your daily life. Everyone is exercising creativity. It's how we survive. It's also how we thrive.
It is how we cultivate and focus our creativity beyond survival that is the difference. If you desire to be more "creative," you're already there. It's simply a choice to embrace and exercise your unique creative spin in whatever area or platform inspires you. Your life is your masterpiece. It's up to each of us how we curate and design it.
And, remember, perfection is an unobtainable illusion. The beauty is in the imperfections and the journey. That's the real art. There is nothing or nobody to approve what you do or create except yourself. As Arno Ligner reminds us in The Rock Warrior’s Way, there are no failures if you’re learning.
So, what's the next step? If you don't already do this, carve out time daily to reflect, dream, write and allow the creative juices to flow. We're waiting for the gift you have to share.
by Monica Olejko, actress, actress, choreographer
Once upon a time, someone I greatly admired called me a “Polymath.” Being unfamiliar with the term, and a bit embarrassed, I knew I should have excused myself and Googled it on the spot. But, I needed to know what he meant and not some wikipedian definition. He said it meant I could find inspiration in anything. As always, he was right.
Inspiration to create comes from anywhere and everywhere. The impetus can be small as a sugar cube, as large as a wooden door or as swift as a smirking grin. If your mind is open to provocation, a tiny spark can be coaxed into an incandescence that will throw light and illuminate your creativity. It can be done. I’ve done it time and time again.
Use your senses. All of them. I’m an olfactory girl. Scents can trigger emotions in me pronto. Carnations make me cry, freshly mowed grass makes me peaceful, and the smell of baking bread take me back to my childhood. Each of these opens a different passage to a myriad of inspiration. I have only to pick the right channel and follow the path to my chosen destination.
Inspiration is everywhere. How lucky for you…that is EXACTLY where you are!
Creativity: Physically, Mentally, Spiritually
by Reggie Jackson, professional musician/drummer
As I reflect on how creativity is good for the soul, I’m brought back to my childhood. Creativity thrilled and energized me physically, mentally, and spiritually. While in this time of quarantine, I’ve found myself eager to be creative and release my inner child. It has also allowed me to contemplate why creativity affects me in these ways.
Physically - I find the actual physical movement of being creative gratifying. Whether it’s playing an instrument, drawing, painting, or dancing, physically moving my body with no predetermined movements creates an enjoyable sense of suspense and freedom. Will the note/line/color/movement work? What’s next? In the words of Willy Wonka (as played by Gene Wilder), “The suspense is terrible…I hope it will last.”
Mentally - I find creativity allowing my mind to be free and go wherever it pleases. Similar to the “Sunday Drive” my grandmother would take my cousins and I on in the afternoons.
She would pile us in her car and start to drive. She would allow us to suggest which way we should go. There was never a right or wrong direction. It was more about her yielding to our curiosity and satisfying our wonderment.
Spiritually - I find creativity connecting me to a higher power and for me that’s God. Growing up playing music in church, at least in my church, creativity was/is a BIG element throughout the service. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a set structure for the service. However, there were flecks of time where you could hear improvised moments of creativity. It could come from a musician, singer, even the preacher.... or all three! Those moments made a 2-3 hour church service not feel long at all. It also was an epiphany of God’s gift of creativity and opportunity for us to use it!
Where ever you find your creativity, embrace and use it!
How Can I Keep From Singing
(not even a pandemic can stop us)
by C. Andrew Blosser & Amy Johnston Blosser, musicians, directors, educators
Over the past couple of months there have been many examples of musicians and artists taking their art forms into new platforms. It is impressive how varied and creative these ventures have been, as well as the amount of time and energy that has been committed to bringing them to life. Many articles and presentations have referenced our need to “think outside the box” or to embrace the limitations and hurdles that stand in our way. This is where we can be creative and flexible, however, this is a daunting task.
The choirs at First Community, where we serve as the Directors of Music, have met virtually for the past several weeks through Facebook Live and Zoom platforms. These meetings, although fun, can never replicate what it is these groups do on a weekly basis. It does provide a chance to check in with each other, see each other’s faces, and spend time in our ‘families’ that have been created. Each of us is experiencing the challenges of this pandemic in different ways – but we are all experiencing something new, and quite frankly, uncomfortable. Although our ‘rehearsals’ continue weekly, the goal is not to create the most beautiful, polished music for worship…it is for us to take a break from the anxiety-filled week to laugh. This has become our favorite part of our time together…to see the smiles and hear the laughter that we share.
We have pressed pause on our usual routine, but we have not paused on our relationships. It is our hope that you are finding ways to laugh with loved ones in this unprecedented time. Whatever ways you have found to creatively connect with your families and friends, remember, although we may not know exactly how or when things may resume in a normal fashion, the time will come when we are able to connect our hearts in minds in creating beautiful music once again. As the hymn asks, “When friends rejoice both far and near, how can I keep from singing?” Let us look for those moments of joy that are hidden amidst us everyday.
Pause with a Purpose
by Jackie Walker Dunscomb, author/keynote speaker
Just Imagine! Yes, just imagine how your personal creativity can soar during these sequestered times. You can enjoy the quietness and stillness that will give birth to unbelievable and satisfying accomplishments. Take each day and devote yourself to discovering something new you have always wanted to do. Try a recipe that has more than four ingredients. Read that book that has been sitting on your night table untouched. Start a daily journal expressing your feelings.
Now it is time to do one thing a day for someone else. Call a friend that is alone and cheer them up and make them laugh with the sound of your voice. Try to get a few extra groceries and make a box full of these items and deliver them to the front door of a needed neighbor. Clean out your closet and discover new treasures and collect “Past Lives” pieces to donate to charity.
Just imagine how this “pause” can give you purpose for yourself and others!
Create or Not to Create...That Is the Question
by Grechen Wingerter, theatre director / educator
Creativity. A spark. An idea. A thought. A dream. An inspiration. However, you define it, creativity comes from anywhere and everywhere. One does not need to be an artist to be creative. We see creativity in athletes, scientists, mathematicians. So often though, I hear my non-theatre students say they are not creative – because they can’t sing, dance, or act, can’t draw or paint, can’t play an instrument. I can’t do half of those things either and yet I still relish in and nurture my creativity in as many ways as possible. When I hear my students say they aren’t creative I remind them creativity comes in all forms – including going to class and work and taking care of family. I remind them they are all more creative than they realize – they just need to start thinking a little more outside of the proverbial box.
As a theatre director, my creative spark comes from a myriad of sources – nature, music, other artists, etc. If I am working on a specific project, much of that spark comes from the script and what I see in my head as I read the playwright’s words – as I try to envision what the playwright intended. This initial spark is the foundation on which a production is built. From there we begin to install the framework – “we” being the ensemble of actors, designers, and other collaborative artists. For theatre is not a solo gig, no one person, even the director, can make it happen without help. We dig into the script – slowly bringing the world of the play to life. We inspire each other over the next several weeks. Ideas bounces back and forth – some tossed aside, others developed more fully – and by opening night, if we have all done our jobs, the world of the play comes to life for an audience. A world brought to life by an ensemble of artists doing its thing – creating. What began with a spark, ends with a flame that hopefully burns into memory and stays in the hearts and minds of all those involved in its creation.
So how does someone who gets much of their inspiration and creative spark from the world around them and other artists continue to create when those sources are not as readily available? What to do when your method of creativity – your creative outlet cannot be done? To be honest, it’s been a struggle for this director. Fighting fears and demons that creep into a brain currently less occupied with its usual creative endeavors. To alleviate some of these fears and demons, I’ve turned to cooking, baking, and exercise. There are some similarities to theatre – especially with cooking and baking. You start with a recipe – a script so to speak. You add the ingredients – the ensemble – and if you’re like me, you improvise a bit and make things up as you go – especially if you don’t have quite the exact ingredients – and hope that it all turns out as expected. But you also have to be prepared for failure and to try again – much like the rehearsal process. Still you build and nurture the mixture in the hopes of creating a perfect (and edible) meal. Cooking, baking, and exercising are typically solo gigs, however, so it’s not quite the same. But you are challenging yourself to do better, to try something new, to push yourself a little further with each new endeavor, with each success or failure. For me, each of these activities does bring about some sense of control over something as I – adapt, add, adjust, and fail as needed to make everything just so – to achieve the desired outcome.
And so, I continue to strive to do better, to go father, to dream higher, to love harder. To risk. To fail. To risk again. And it is my hope, that in the coming days, and when we finally get to the end of this wild Young Adult dystopian novel in which we are currently living, we will challenge each other to continue to do those things as well.
For now, wishing you all… peace, love, and creativity. And a reminder to just breathe.
Capture the Beauty
by Arica Pfirsch, artist manager, producer, OCM owner
Create by definition means to bring something into existence. We all are creators in some form, whether it is in the arts, cinema, live entertainment, etc. However, being a creator is not just in the arts, designers create homes, gardeners create beautiful beds of flowers or food, police and firefighters help create a safe environment, doctors and nurses help create a healthy body, trainers help create a body you desire to have. You see we all create a world that is so beautiful and we all have a purpose.
As we are going through this time of uncertainty and the unknown, it has caused me to be more intentional with my family and friends. Spending time face timing or just reaching out through a phone call or text. The world has almost paused, however, it has created a time for us to truly focus on what is truly valuable in our lives - creating a space for family to be a priority, focusing on our mental health, and learning to be okay with change. This has come with its challenges, especially for an extrovert like me, I don’t like isolation, I need to be around people, and I struggle with depression and anxiety.
However, I am excited to see what comes. Excited to see a world that is going to look and feel different. Our normal has been shaken, and that is okay. I have hope and I have faith that God is in control and He loves each of us. I look forward to see what music comes from this. Music is something that captures hearts and is a way for us all to relate to one another as it makes our spirits stir and our minds wander. I am excited to be a part of a world that will be stronger, more loving, more intentional. I look forward to creating a new world with you. We will pull through this and we may be stronger, and it may be different, but change is good and brings forth something very special and so beautiful.
Capture the beauty in every moment, breath deep and know you are loved and you have something to offer in creating a new world.
by Mary Jo Papich, musician, author, educator, Co-Founder Jazz Education Network
Hello creativity, my old friend….I’ve come to talk to you again. (Sorry, Simon & Garfunkel).
You come and you go and sometimes aren’t around when I need you the most.
Why don’t you always come when I summon you?
Why are you so fickle?
Creativity, why do you take your time when I have deadlines to meet or important dilemmas to solve?
I find you eluding me often these days.
What am I not doing right to have you around more often?
Do I not make you feel comfortable enough?
Do I not welcome you into my world happily and thankfully?
Creativity and your partner, Imagination…I so appreciate your visits in my life.
You help me make good choices.
You help me see good in all.
You help me find the sincere words to say to struggling hearts.
You help me look for the best in others and challenging situations.
You help me find new solutions to old problems.
You help me create bold ideas that turn into projects.
You calm me and visit me when I focus on breathing and solitude.
You carry me away when I need to take a vacation and cannot physically go.
Oh, the places we have visited!
I love you most when you come to me when I am brainstorming with my organizational friends looking for direction.
For all of this I am grateful to you, my friend who comes and goes at will.
Sometimes your visits are fleeting and other times you stay for hours.
Sometimes you come in the early mornings…
other times you give me surprise visits when I least expect it.
Often I can entice you into visiting by getting lots of rest or filling my spirit in nature.
Oh creativity, I love and appreciate you in my life.
You make the world a better place, as we SO need creative problem solvers right now.
When will I see you again?
I need you…the world needs you…for a vaccine to cure and calm the craziness of the world …and more.
Come back soon.