New Solutions for a New Age: Community

Guest Correspondence

BY DR. LARRY THOMPSON SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY OCT 26, 2019

The Creative Age—one in which the way we work and live will be significantly impacted by automation and artificial intelligence—is coming fast.

As I alluded in last month’s article, success in that future will require us to reignite our inherent creativity. Why do I say reignite? I know we all are creative— just think back to when we were children. Most of us played by making up games, creating forts out of leaves, putting on plays and musicals, and just plain using our imaginations to entertain ourselves and each other for hours. As we grew older, we used those skills less and less often. Indeed, many of us were often taught not to use them. Unfortunately, that led to the atrophy of the right side of the brain where creative thinking primarily exists.

So, how do we redevelop those creative skills that were lost? Like with any muscle, the cure to atrophy is exercise. One way to exercise the right side of your brain is to engage in experiences that put us in environments that foster creative thinking. As John M. Enger, director of the Creative Economy Initiative at San Diego State University, notes in a HuffPost.com article, “As we talk about the development of creative enterprises today and the foreshadowing of a whole new economy based on creativity and innovation—the dawn of a Creative Age—we are acutely aware of a new overlay of creative clusters in communities.” The thing that makes these clusters work, according to Eger, is the community that is formed through engagement with collaborators, business partners, and innovators.
We see evidence of these creative clusters and their resulting communities already. In Miami, there is Art Basel and the Miami Design District. In San Diego, entrepreneur Pete Garcia is planning an arts district called IDEA (for Innovation, Design, Education, and Art). And here in Sarasota, on Dec. 14, the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College will open its doors at the Ringling College Museum Campus.  

The newly completed Ringling College Museum Campus is anchored in what was the historic Sarasota High School building, now transformed by Ringling College via an adaptive reuse renovation. In addition to the Sarasota Art Museum, the Museum Campus is also home to Ringling College Continuing Studies, which includes the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Ringling College and the Studio and Digital Arts non-degree program.

Viewed as our community-serving campus, the Ringling College Museum Campus is intended to act as a creative cluster in this region. The experiences offered there, whether they be looking at contemporary art, making art in a non-credit Studio and Digital Art class, taking liberal arts classes, participating in educational programs or engaging in informal dialogues, will enable visitors not only to redevelop their creativity, but also to become part of a community involved in dialogue that stretches their thinking.

An article for Monograph, the online publication for Americans for the Art, asserts “the history of community cultural development is rich with linkages between the arts and place making, economic development and community building.” I have been saying for some time the fuel for the 21st century economy will be creativity, innovation, design thinking and new ways of working and playing. That article reinforces that belief. The Ringling College Museum Campus, pairing a world-class contemporary art museum with a robust continuing studies program, will undoubtedly help power Sarasota’s economic future. It will provide a mechanism to re-engage the atrophied right side of the brain by fostering creative and critical thinking and the creation and maintenance of a community dedicated to lifelong learning and exploration. It is so wonderfully appropriate that this building, which was such an integral part of Sarasota’s past, will now spark a thriving and vibrant creative community.

We want to take a moment to thank the thousands of people who had a hand in this project: that small group of creative thinkers who originally brought the idea for a contemporary art museum to our attention; all of the dedicated individuals who donated their talent, time and treasure, including those who sponsored and plan to attend the Dec. 7 opening gala, proceeds from which will help fund the Museum’s efforts; the students, teachers and donors that are part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Ringling College; and all of the Ringling College faculty and staff on the main campus who have pulled together to make this project a reality.
Thank you to each and every one of you, and welcome to the Ringling College Museum Campus—a new creative cluster in Sarasota to exercise the right side of your brain.

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

Rendering courtesy of Ringling College: Sarasota Museum of Art Eastern Facade.

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