The Importance of Tradition

Guest Correspondence


The close of the calendar year often brings up mixed emotions. It’s a time when we do our best to slow down and appreciate the simple things—the holiday lights, delicious foods reminding us of holidays past and the love and friendship of those who filled our year(s) with joy.

In short, it’s a time about tradition.

We live in such a fast-moving world. Successful companies and organizations are searching for the next game-changer—the product or service that breaks from the norm and cuts through the clutter. We actively work to deviate from traditional thinking.

As the president of one of the premiere art and design colleges, I have learned a bit about the importance of original thought, of creativity. But I also know the role that tradition plays in the creative process.

  • Tradition offers examples of the creative masters who came before us.
  • Tradition conjures emotion with our audiences.
  • Tradition shows us where we have been, so we can move forward.
  • Tradition is, essentially, the foundation on which we build.

As a community, we in Sarasota have traditions that bring us together. We congregate every December 31 to watch the Sarasota Pineapple Drop. We visit Selby Gardens to see its annual Lights in Bloom. We come together and connect with each other in celebration and appreciation of these traditions, and we want to share them with the up-and-coming generations.

But tradition doesn’t have to mean standing still or staying the same. As new people join our community, they add to existing traditions and bring their own. And their personal histories, coupled with ours, make us stronger and more multi-faceted.  More interesting.  More alive. More connected. They make us better.

Again this year, we partnered with PINC and AtLarge to bring the third annual PINC Conference to Sarasota. This new tradition for our region is a day of creativity and inspiration. PINC stands for people, ideas, nature, and creativity. Through the imaginative talks and conversations, this community learns what CAN be done when you think differently. It is becoming the newest highly anticipated yearly event. In fact, this year it completely sold out.

At the conference, I delivered remarks about creativity and what it takes to be a creative. And the very first step of the creative process is “Building a Foundation.” This is precisely what tradition does.

Our students at Ringling College are taught that the first answer usually is not the right one. This is because we want them to think “outside of the box.” But you first need a box in place to provide parameters that facilitate creative thinking. That’s why we do our research before we start a project—to inform our work and see what has been done and why. This requires a respect for tradition and the work that has come before.

There will always be a place for tradition in our rapidly changing world—both during the holiday season and throughout the entire year. So, this New Year’s Day, when we make resolutions to change and grow into better versions of ourselves, let’s consider how we might want to stay the same. Let’s explore which traditions and aspects of our lives we are proud of, and how we can make ourselves, and our communities, a better place by honoring these traditions and bringing new ones into the fold with open arms.

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

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