Creativity City: Silencing Your Voice of Judgment and Igniting your Creative Spark

May 2017

Elizabeth Jenike

The front lawn of the Farmer School of Business is beautiful and stately with a manicured lawn, tidy flower beds and neatly swept sidewalks. That all changed on April 15th.

From April 15 to 21, the front lawn was home to a scene that, at first glance, was anything but orderly. Streamers here, spray paint there, a sea of smiling students and professors. And when asked what they were doing in this odd, colorful pop up city, the students cracked huge grins: “World Creativity and Innovation Week. Welcome to Creativity City!”

World Creativity and Innovation Day was created by creativity expert Marci Segal in Toronto, Canada, in 2001. That year, a headline disparaging the state of Canadian creativity caught Segal’s eye, and she thought - there has to be a way to get the word out about the very real creativity she knew existed in Canada. By 2006, it had become an entire week - beginning with Da Vinci’s birthday on April 15 and ending with Earth Day on April 21 - dedicated to encouraging people to use their creativity to make the world a better place.

This year, the talented creatives of the Igoodea student group at Miami were given the task (by none other than our own resident creativity expert, Jim Friedman) of creating an environment where students, faculty, staff and visitors could challenge conceptions of creativity and help support right-brain thinking.

Overnight, the city was born. There was an innovation garden, where passersby could plant flowers in cans and bottles to symbolize the cultivation of their own creativity. There was a tent-like structure with the words “Who said you had to grow up?” spray-painted triumphantly on the side in bright yellow. It was a village of color and fun covering the lawn.

To the casual observer, it might look like an uncoordinated carnival. On second glance, however, there was a method to the madness. Student teams constructing shelters made from plywood and two-by-fours. The idea was to manufacture a station where each team could embody an aspect of creativity - to teach passersby something about their own mindsets or approach to school and work.

For freshman information systems major Maryanne Smith, the week was a success. Maryanne, who will take over as president of Igoodea in the spring of 2018, was part of a team that encountered a unique challenge. The group originally planned to construct a “Hall of Innovation,” which would feature a large chalkboard upon which visitors could scrawl ideas for anything and everything. However, Mother Nature herself added the first idea to their board - by blowing the whole thing over before the Hall could be completed.

Others might have been discouraged by this turn of events, or even deterred. But Maryanne’s group called on their inner innovators to do their Hall justice and, instead of building anything new out of the deconstructed two-by-fours, they turned the materials into stilts. Yes, that’s right. Stilts!

According to Maryanne, one of the main goals of Creativity City was to show students and faculty that despite the conception that creativity is a characteristic owned by the fine arts, everyone has the ability to be innovative. President Crawford even came by to try his hand at the stilts.

The destruction and subsequent repurposing of the team’s structure served as a reminder of the message Igoodea was striving to get across with Creativity City in the first place. In order to succeed at anything in life, you have to be willing to take risks - and turning a blown-down structure into stilts is a perfect example of this risk-taking mentality.

“Creativity City was extremely important because it not only made people more aware of their creative abilities but also taught important lessons of how silencing your judgment and taking risks can help anyone to think creatively and innovate,” said marketing major/entrepreneurship minor Amber Hallmann, who serves as the co-president of Igoodea. “Creativity City really broke up the normal day-to-day at Farmer, allowing people to engage with something new and allowing Igoodea Creatives to really impact fellow students.”

As the students hosted these events and constructed the city from the ground up, something became abundantly clear - they were learning, but not by memorizing definitions or taking tests. They were challenging themselves to shut down their inner critics and really be present in the world.

“They’re learning,” Jim Friedman said with a smile. “But they don’t actively realize how much they’re learning.”

Students and staff at tables in front of Farmer School of Business Woman putting plant into soda can Female student standing using long wooden boards