Creative Thinking Project Invites Artists to Collaborate with Scientists, Philosophers, and Historians

Liz Lerman, Robert Whitman, and Elizabeth Streb to Participate

March 17, 2011—As one of six nationwide recipients of a Creative Campus Innovations Grant, Montclair State University is well on its way to developing the framework for a multidisciplinary learning environment that stimulates deep learning by arousing curiosity.  The $251,670 grant was awarded in 2010 by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for the purpose of identifying, supporting, and documenting cross-campus collaborations that integrate the performing arts and the work of performing arts presenters into the learning experience of students and the community.  

Montclair State’s Creative Thinking Project is a collaborative effort between the University’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programming (ACP), visiting artists from ACP’s Peak Performances @ Montclair presenting series, and the Research Academy for University Learning (RAUL).  The focus of the Creative Thinking Project is to explore the nature of artistic creativity and how it can be integrated into myriad disciplines to ignite ingenuity, innovation, and critical thinking across all spectrums and disciplines on campus.

ACP and RAUL have formed a team of eight faculty members representing a variety of disciplines to create a multi-disciplinary course on creativity based on the methods of the late renowned artist and educator Paul Baker and the Baker Idea Institute, which uses creative thinking and imagination to foster and promote successful ideas for business, educational institutions, and personal lives.  The final course structure will draw on Peak Performances artists and their work as catalysts for understanding and exploring creative processes across disciplines.

Since September 2010 the course development team has worked closely with visiting artists including Scott deLahunta, director of R-Research at Wayne McGregor/Random Dance; Liz Lerman, artistic director of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange; and Jeroen Olyslaegers, playwright and author of the text for Jan Fabre/Troubleyn’s Prometheus-Landscape II which was recently performed as part of the Peak Performances series.

Upcoming collaborative efforts include committee members participating as “provocateurs” leading small group discussions in the second act of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s Matter of Origins. The production, which explores the physics of beginnings, was commissioned by Peak Performances and will be performed at the University’s Alexander Kasser Theater March 24-27, 2011.  

The committee will also participate in Brainstorm, an ACP symposium on creative thinking featuring a public conversation on April 12, 2011 with artists Robert Whitman and choreographer Elizabeth Streb discussing the role of creative thinking in their work.  

The resulting work-to-date on the Creative Learning course will be presented on May 4, 2011, at the RAUL-sponsored University Teaching and Learning Showcase. Key formative evaluation will take place to mark the progress of the collaboration and identify continuing steps in developing a promising syllabus, a fully developed course outline, and evaluative processes. The virtual Creative Research Center (CRC) of Montclair State University will support the University Teaching and Learning Showcase through active involvement in the day's activities. Neil Baldwin, the director of the CRC, will serve as the on-site commentator/blogger/rapporteur.

Montclair State University faculty committee members include Jerry Fails, Computer Science; Harry Haines, Chairperson, Communication Studies; Mika Munakata, Mathematical Sciences; Tiger Roholt, Philosophy and Religion; Debbie Saivetz, Theatre and Dance; Marissa Silverman, the John J. Cali School of Music; Ashwin Vaidya, Mathematical Sciences/Physics; and Yawei Wang, Marketing.  The committee also includes Jedediah Wheeler, executive director of the ACP, Carrie Urbanic, community engagement director, and Ken Bain, vice provost for University Learning and director of RAUL.

Montclair State University
Montclair State offers the advantages of a large university -- a comprehensive undergraduate curriculum with a global focus, a broad variety of superior graduate programs through the doctoral level, and a diverse faculty and student body -- combined with a small college's attention to students.  montclair.edu