I was recently contacted by the father of a teenager asking for advice: "I have a 15-year-old daughter who is very good at art. I wanted to understand what I can do to help her grow and develop her creativity. As someone who is not very creative, I am unsure of what steps to take to help her progress. I do know about software and know how she can learn software to enhance her digital work but I'm not sure if that helps progress her creativity. That teaches you how to use a tool not be creative. How do I enhance her creativity? - Really appreciate your time on this."
In my opinion, the best thing you can do for your children is to help keep their curiosity alive and to encourage them to explore their interests. Technology is a double-edged sword when it comes to creativity. It can be an enhancer and an inhibitor. While technical skills are important, it is even more important to learn the so-called "soft skills:" learning how to learn, questioning,associational thinking, observing, experimenting, synthesizing, critical thinking, and reflecting.These skills will enhance her creativity and also help make her "future proof" in the advent of AI and machine learning. To develop as an artist, in work, and in life, is to be a kind of alchemist, -- transforming leaden thinking into the gold of wisdom
If you have a child who has taken an interest in art, encourage that interest.
You would be surprised at how many successful people have an arts background, or an interest in the arts, including Nobel prizewinning scientists. Moreover, artists have many more career and entrepreneurial opportunities in today's burgeoning visual culture.
What is visual culture? Artsy describes it as a world "where we communicate increasingly with images, it's an ever-expanding field, comprising not just art, photography, and design, but also memes, advertising, histories of representation, and the very technologies through which all this flows." Examples include collector Yusaku Maezawa crowning Basquiat as America's most expensive artist, Agnes Gund using art to help spark prison reform, and Rony Abovitz and Craig Federighi using cutting-edge augmented reality to change the way we experience the world.
What steps can you take to develop your kids' interest in art and creativity?
- Enroll them in art classes.
- Learn about the lives of successful artists.
(For inspiration, learn how Tyrus Wong, a Chinese born US immigrant in the early 1900s overcame poverty and prejudice, persevered against all odds to become a skilled artist -- and a Disney legend for the Asian inspired watercolors he created for Bambi.
- Keep their curiosity alive (and yours)
How to Be an Explorer of the World, by Keri Smith, is a delightful book filled with activities to help you explore and document the art and science of everyday life. It's amazing how similar artists and scientists are in terms of how they analyze the world around them: by observing, collecting, documenting, analyzing, and comparing. This book isn't just for kids. My colleague Steven Taylor uses this book as a resource in his graduate classes at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
- Take time out to play.
Play might sound frivolous, but it may well be the catalyst that frees our imagination to conceive a sustainable future in business, economics, and society. Diane Ackerman, author of Deep Play, writes "Play is an activity enjoyed for its own sake. It is our brain's favorite way of learning and maneuvering." Through play, we open our receptivity to imagination, intuition,, and daydreams.
- Study Philosophy:
Mark Cuban says studying philosophy may soon be worth more than computer science Artificial intelligence technology will vastly change the job market, and eventually technology will become so smart it can program itself... To remain competitive, Cuban advises ditching degrees that teach specific skills or professions and opting for degrees that teach you to think in a big picture way, like philosophy." Here are some fun philosophy games you can play with your teens.
- Empower your kids to ask questions about the world around them.
Weaving Creativity into Every Strand of Your Curriculum by Dr. Cyndi Burnett and Julia Figliott, is aimed at teachers and I recommend it to parents as well because it will help you think creatively about any topic. Why not weave creativity into conversations at your dinner table? I'm willing to argue your kids will get better grades as an added benefit.
- Support your kids in following their interests, whatever they may be.
If you track the biographies of successful people in any walk of life, you will notice that many have experienced a high-impact moment in childhood that ignited a spark and propelled them on a path to a fulfilling career. For me, it was being given an oil paint set as a Christmas present from my father when I was about 12.
- Push boundaries in your art and culture explorations.
Sign up for event notifications from museums, performing arts, and university lectures in your community and take your teens to the ones they find interesting.