Claiming Creativity brings international audience

By CiaraShook

Approximately 150 artists and members of creative industries from around the world came to Columbia April 21 through 24 to explore one question—what is the relationship between art-making and creativity?

Columbia, along with the European League of Institutes of the Arts, or ELIA, hosted Claiming Creativity, a four-day symposium dedicated to the discussion of creativity in different components of society. Held in different buildings across campus and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, 610 S. Michigan Ave., the symposium offered discussion panels, three keynote speakers and plenty of room for attendees to socialize and talk about the topics Gillian Moore, executive director of Academic Initiatives and International Program, said Columbia’s is one of eight symposia around the world, leading up the European League of Institutes of the Arts’ biennial conference in October 2010, in Nantes, France.

“Creativity is a word that’s been badly derived, and used and abused,” Moore said. “Every sector uses it—industry, commerce, business—everything.”

Susan Marcus, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, said there were attendees from 28 countries,  including the United States.

The presentations served as an extension of a Web forum for Claiming Creativity, where members and those planning to attend could get a head start on the discussions of creativity in its different facets.

“We wanted to step away from the usual conference format, where people get talked at and nothing is concluded,” Moore said. “Our purpose of this [Web forum] is to allow people to have this discussion now.”

Graphic facilitators served as scribes during the different presentations, recording the key points of discussion onto white boards as a recap for delegates to see the progression of the different presentations.

Theresa Reid, executive director of Arts on Earth, a program aimed at integrating the arts throughout the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said everybody wants to be creative and creativity exists in every field.

“[Albert] Einstein was not an artist and neither was [Thomas] Edison or Benjamin Franklin, and they were hugely creative people,” Reid said. “So is art a different kind of creativity than those things? We don’t know.”

Founded by Carla Delfos two decades ago, ELIA serves as an international forum for arts and related entities in Europe to discuss their places in higher education. As Columbia joined and soldered a relationship with ELIA, both parties talked about the subject of creativity in a college-wide setting.

Columbia and ELIA set up a committee for the symposium and inquired about subtopics to members, to which they received a response of 156 proposals. Of the proposals, 53 subtopics were chosen for presentation at Claiming Creativity.

One hundred and eighty delegates were slated to attend Claiming Creativity, but 40 were delayed in their arrival or were unable to make it due to the ash from Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull that hindered flights over a portion of Europe.

Despite the number of members who couldn’t come, Claiming Creativity was a hit.

“Though the flights are interrupted, it’s still very much an international conference,” Marcus said. “We’re lucky that many different people are coming from different countries.”

Each day there were keynote speakers and a handful of presentations, including topics of creativity fused with economy, culture and social change, science and technology, the environment and research.

For those who could not attend, delegates recorded the symposium presentations onsite and uploaded the videos to YouTube and Claiming Creativity’s Web forum close to live time.

Keynote speaker Sarat Maharaj was unable to attend the conference on April 21 and instead artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña was called in to speak. Theatre artist Curt L. Tofteland filled in for April 23 keynote speaker Dany Jacobs, who was also unable to attend.

“This is a big thing for Columbia,” Moore said. “ELIA wants to be a global entity, and it puts Columbia front and center as a force in the global discussion of higher education in the arts and media.”