Jan. 28 — presentation, “Ruskin Redux: Rejoining Creativity and Pragmatism”

Contact: David Lustgarten, 651-5995, lustgarten@champlain.edu

Where and when: Alumni Auditorium, 6-7 p.m.

lustgarten2Overview: From David Lustgarten’s proposal to the Eight International Conference on the Arts in Society: In a recent and popular TED presentation, Sir Ken Robinson accurately addressed the progressive devaluation of creative activity that children experience through compulsory public school curricula, echoing themes prevalent in the early- to mid-nineteenth century ‘Romantic’ response to industrialism, most notably by John Ruskin, but also Carlyle, Dickens, Morris, et al. Much of Ruskin’s prolific writing spoke to this very issue, albeit generally through his more finely focused examination of the ‘fine’ versus the ‘applied’ arts. His concerns have since proven accurate. In fact, the unhealthy dichotomy he feared has now become so highly formalized and structured by our modern systems of indoctrination (i.e. education and/or ‘training’ people for jobs) that we have become blind even to the possibilities Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites, and the Arts and Crafts practitioners envisioned (i.e nurturing natural creative talents into rewarding professions.) Our purpose here, however, should not be a reattempt at their utopian vision, but rather an acknowledgement of their insight and good sense, towards a state of community whereby people can more widely develop their inherent skills and sensibilities, heretofore ignored and/or devalued. The goal will be first, to enable a much larger portion of society to enjoy creative work while, second, to better educate a receiving public to embrace, encourage and value the results of such creativity. Educational systems increasingly have tended to isolate artistic endeavor from more ‘practical’ pursuits, e.g. math, engineering, business, etc., an attitude resulting in essentially two types of students and, later, citizens; the imaginative, sensitive being (the “thinker-creator,”) versus the obedient, productive operative (the “doer-worker.”) A greater embrace of imaginative, creative pursuits during the formative years of secondary education will soften the hard boundary between these “types,” providing not only a generally more rewarding experience of our conscious life, but also a greater sense of shared meaning within and among cultures.”

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