Game Changers and Change Makers

Higher Education

BY DR. LARRY THOMPSON SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY MAY 27, 2017

How do we change and build culture?

It’s a question artists, designers, creatives and educators ask themselves every day. It’s why we get up in the morning. It drives those of us in higher education to think innovatively.

The answer? Start with—and listen to—our youth.

The drive to be a creative and to make change starts long before students come to campus. In fact, it thrives among the very young. Think about it—children solve problems daily, often coming up with new, different, wonderful ways of thinking. But for the sake of efficiency, this “different thinking” is all too often driven out of us.  Instead, we learn to think in patterns. And sadly, we learn to think alike.

What we need to realize is that these new and innovative ideas of the young need to be captured, and that their perspectives are worth saving. They are worth nurturing, fostering, protecting—and learning from. That’s why we open our campus every summer to high school students who are interested in the arts and we encourage these change makers to attend our Ringling PreCollege program.

Here, in our studios, dorms and classrooms, high school students learn from Ringling College’s award-winning faculty. They spend an entire month studying technique and technology in an array of courses, from the traditional—painting, photography and film—to the cutting edge—digital sculpting, animation and interface design.

This year, we are thrilled to welcome 220 PreCollege students to campus (our largest enrollment to-date, and 50 more than last year!), eager to learn how to approach new problems and discover the tools and technologies to build solutions. Our class this year is coming from 33 US states and 13 countries, bringing along with them a deep passion for art and design. 

It’s no easy feat to attend these robust summer programs, so we are dedicated to offering scholarships, made possible through the generosity of our partners: the Lazarus Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the Harrison School for the Arts Parents Association, the Hempill Foundation and the support of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Collectively, this is our way of supporting and fostering creativity among our youth.

During the program, students will undergo critiques, learn to research and develop concepts, as well as cultivate an appreciation for the process that is creativity and art-making. And often, somewhere along the way during their time here on campus, many decide to dedicate their education and their careers to creativity. I cannot begin to express how important this appreciation and understanding they are building is to their creative development.

Ringling College is dedicated to educating and preparing artists and designers. We help them build systems and learn to think critically—because creativity is not magic. It is both process and discipline. It is imagination in motion. And it is so very important because it communicates and contributes directly to our society as a whole. Ringling PreCollege students learn through the process of making that creativity is an arduous process. And that it is one well worth undertaking.

We all know change isn’t easy. And we know that often the most brilliant solutions are the result of hours of work, hundreds of tries and thinking “outside the box.” That’s exactly what young people innately do. They think freely, originally, brilliantly and unencumbered. 

We at Ringling College strive daily to encourage young creatives to hold onto this energy. Our future is in the hands of our upcoming generations. And I, for one, am hopeful and excited for the world they are building together, creatively.

Dr. Larry R. Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art and Design.

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