Creativity Matters

High Education


If you know me or have been listening to my utterances over the past two decades at the helm of Ringling College of Art and Design, I have been repeating myself. Then again, what I have been saying bears repeating.

What I keep reiterating is that creativity matters.

Even though I lead an institution world-renowned for teaching art and design and the application of creative technologies, I can confidentially assert I am not being self-serving in taking the bully pulpit for creativity.

Why? I hope we all see that creativity matters. Every day we live in a world made more distinct, better and, yes, sometimes worse for the implementation of imagination that is creativity.

We are privileged to live in a community that values creativity as much as Sarasota does. It not only enriches our lives on a daily basis, but is crucial to solving the challenges and problems that face us now and in the future. Creativity matters, not just in the arts, but in business, government, the environment and our society.

Creative solution seeking is important to all aspects of our existence and livelihoods and is fast becoming one of the most valued skillsets of our time. It is one of the key drivers of our economy and is truly the “oil of the future.”

I have delineated the balance between right-brain and left-brain thinking and stressed the value in developing right-brained thinking skills as much as society has focused on left-brained skills. Our education system has focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) extensively; I promulgate that A for Art must be added to this concept. That addition results in “creating” the compelling acronym STEAM. While a STEM might grow, STEAM is an energy force that can move a stem, or even mountains.

What else can I say about the importance of creativity that you haven’t heard a dozen or more times already?

Ringling College is well established in your awareness for what we do. What I want to tell you now—if you have the patience and fortitude to continue reading—is why what we do is relevant and important.

I firmly believe we are entering a new era I call The Creative Age.

The Creative Age represents the evolution of our new reality. Humankind experienced the progression from hunter to farmer, from the Industrial Age to Technological Age. These progressions occur at faster and faster rates. The advancement into the Technological Age solidified the importance of STEM education with applied knowledge and left-brained thinking. Our schools evolved to meet the need for those skill sets, emphasizing analysis, numeracy, linear thinking, physics and logic.

In our current Creative Age, I see we need to expand those practical skillsets. We need to add strong right brain skills, including intuition and creative and holistic thinking both to achieve fruitful application of existing technologies and to create new approaches to provide future solutions to the challenges facing individuals, businesses and society.

Technology alone will not solve the world’s problems, and indeed has been responsible for many of them. How we creatively adapt, invent and utilize new and existing technologies is what will help us advance and make our collective futures.

How does Ringling College fit into this Creative Age construct?

By being at the leading edge of preparing young people for our future. By providing talented faculty and access to state-of-the-art technologies so crucial for fostering and developing Creative Age skillsets. By creating an environment that encourages students’ creativity and to discover and explore myriad solutions to challenges, today and in our future.

Life is not simply black and white, or shades of gray, but a wide spectrum of colorful possibilities. Ringling College is providing the groundwork so that solutions for the future can be drawn from this extended palette.


So, dear reader (and I thank you for staying with me this far), why is this important to you?

To get into the answer to that question is going to take more words and space than I have available today. I will be sharing with you in a series of upcoming columns why the Creative Age matters to you. And, specifically why Ringling College matters—to you, our community and the world.

Over the next several months, we are going to explore solid applications of creative thinking and design sensibility. We will discuss examples of creative problem solving in action. And we will seek to inspire you—to develop your personal curiosity and your own applied creativity.

It is my most fervent hope you will come along as we illuminate and draw you into the dawning of The Creative Age. Please join us.

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

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