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Creative mind. The Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council presents the creative mind in the 20th century as a number 12 in the National Association of educational broadcasters series The creative mind and used by WGBH FM in Boston under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. These conversations explore the creative process as it pertains to the American artist and scientist in the 20th century. Guests for this program militancy Naam Margaret Mead and Rudolf I'm hungry. And here is our host and commentator for the creative mind. Lyman Bryson. In the last number of this series of talks about the creative mind in science and in art we're going to look at a.
Problem of how in a society like ours how in any society we can discover the conditions that make creative work more likely make it a little better. Harvesting of whatever genius we can produce in our population and I suppose that problem which I'm going to talk over now with these three guess can be put this way. Since we know that in other times and in other places there has been a high productivity of creativeness in Arkansas and other forms of expression. Can we look at those conditions and describe them and if we can describe them. I mean you know real confidence in our capacity to reproduce them in our own society. Looking at this is an anthropologist and if we look at all the different kinds of human societies on which we have some information we can say there is no society without some creativity without some originality
and without some use of the arts. But that there are enormous differences between these societies. We don't know anything. As much as we should about what these conditions are but we can state categorically that there are differences that the same people at different periods have been creative that groups of people side by side in comparable environments. One is much more creative than another so that seems a legitimate question. The question you've raised Mr. Bryson. What are the conditions under which one group of people are creative at work in one place or in one period. And are those conditions that we can can manipulate in any way. Well if you wanted to spell out some of these symptoms to me which are characteristic of our own society I think one of the things you could say is that we are a consumer society. And to be in the attitude of a consumer is probably the value opposite of a creative attitude. That is we're living here
under conditions which make us all the time be in the attitude of receiving. You're being told you're being made to react. Everything is prescribed to you. No I think the first thing you would want to do if you can do anything about that is to create in this culture of. Of a recipe to pity. Some think of islands of activity of of spontaneity of reaction which would not look all the time. What are you supposed to do and who has thought for you and so forth and can somehow reactivate this directive. This active way of going about life which is more natural to people than the opposite of it. You don't think doctor on the fact that we all have to be producers as well as consumers somewhat weighs in the balance against this receptivity you talk about. After all we have to create what we receive. You can be a producer without being productive. Yes and it seems to me that much of our producing is of an unproductive sort
but I think it's also important to recognize you can have active consumption. Now I have the case of two tribes in the Pacific one of whom buy and sell objects of art just as our early millionaires used to do. They valued everything in terms of its resale. They had the largest collection of beautifully made things of any people in the group. They made nothing themselves. They were exceedingly active. There was no they weren't receiving these things in any sense they were going out and getting them and then reselling them as were doing the finance to some extent. President it seems to me that if we accept the notion that we have a set of conditions under which an artist works then if we accept the conditions under which a society operates what we discover is I think that the originality must come out of a certain set of conditions and I would say that these conditions are the kinds of specifications that you found in science and religion and so on and these are the kinds of things that the artist just simply
takes for granted. But our real difficulty as I say would be to produce the kind of individualization or the kind of thing that a particular specific artist would encourage him to express himself as an individual within that general area where everything is being specified in terms of the particular kinds of religions or sciences or activities. And this is the problem it seems to me of how we can get these gifted individuals these talented individuals to have a sufficient knowledge of the conditions so that they don't feel that they are working solely in terms of genius or inspiration. So they have a sufficient knowledge of the conditions so that they actually express in their own individual way what that society is intending is intending and what it's meaning. Now I don't think that this ought to circumscribe them but I don't see how it can escape. But don't we need mediating conditions here as you have the individual who whether is a genius or not is gifted incapable of creativity. You have the
important movements of an age in science in philosophy in politics. Now if these individuals think if we think of them as children are to be brought into relationship to this age in an active and creative way then they have to be subject to the disciplines the active largely enthusiastic discipline of their particular media whether it's writing music or working in science. Being a naturalist or being a painter and this means some exposure to criticism and high standards of performance during their formative years and how they're performing or so. You know Dr. Mead I was going to say to Dr. Nom the idea to go back to the child after all unless we have some way of being quite sure that we can recognize creative potential in the very young not much of what we know is going to have much effect. Is it necessary for us to treat the young child that is gifted in any way different from the way we treat all children. Seems to me a very
important point because if we have to recognize the creative child as distinguished from the other. If this is a fair and useful distinction then we must do something special to this child in order to bring out in him this creativeness. I think they the greatest advantage you can give to your creative child. Mr. Bryson is the how to treat every child with the expectation of its creator of his creativity. You need an atmosphere of the expectation of creativity for all children so that those few children can flourish. But the main thing which we have to deal with is the creativity of all of them. And I think one of the things we want to do boy do to avoid is the departmental ization of creativity and ideas. I agree very much with the need for discipline in the technical discipline in the field. But I think it is much more important that all your teaching beginning from kindergarten all the way through should be with an emphasis on.
Stake your own questions make your own inventions. Make your own thinkers make your own images and models and then you know you have a climate for this occasion to work out of. It seems to me that a good many of our difficulties arise from the kind of myth of fact that surrounds people like Mozart we expect them to write symphonies at the age of 3 or 16 or what not and this stands in the way of precisely what you Dr. Anonymous seems to me would like that is what you would like would be a severe technique which would permit everyone to have their own to develop their own capacity for originality. But it seems to me that what we ought really to do is to subject them all to the same kind of technical discipline or within the areas of their interest and from this. Hope that the originality would come and I think it can come because after you've got these various specific kinds of techniques the initiative in the originality will begin to work in the area of the interest. You're assuming doctor now originality and creativity. The same thing.
Well there are types of creativeness out there which are continuations of further previous innovations and are not original in that sense. Oh well I would say that there are no such innovations but that seems to be a very radical view which I intend to deal with I think that there are that all of the so-called innovations are in fact specifications of general things for example the airplane is an invention and innovation that people moved and traveled and used transports specific ways which human beings some of their problems grounded the techniques that make these available so we can understand art because art always comes back to this particular kind of symbolism which then takes on the specific nature of the industrial society. I should say. But aren't we. When faced with the practical issues here at present in the United States we are in an educational crisis so that we which we call it so we can think about it. We're very much interested in the state of the arts in this country and the State of the
sciences. We're worried as to whether the most creative and original ideas in science come from Europe and possibly we are merely assembly line producers and where we are really worried about that. I mean I think we're worried for fear we won't put to use the ideas were more worried about that than we are about the ideas but the I don't know science we're talking about is just general I don't know it's about education I'm talking about the people that are having a crisis at the moment or think they have. Now that group of people are asking some of these questions. And one of the very serious ones and I guess is this question is the creative channel the talented child to be treated differently and I agree with completely. Dr. Arnheim and in terms of the American tradition I don't think we can take these children apart and treat them differently than what we have to have as a new kind of education within which they will flourish and other children will flourish proportionally to their particular gifts. What in this what do you say Doctor made to the professor of education who says we don't want to put pressure on our children so we're not going to look for any children. We don't want to
stimulate our children too much. Well I think that's absolutely rubbish. But I don't think putting pressure on one's children looking for the children are necessarily the same thing even. We have been under educating everybody in this country now for generations in every conceivable respect or sometimes little girls were tortured by me being made to play the piano. We're something separate in general we've under-educated. Now we want possibly to give every child a chance both to draw on tradition and that means techniques and to develop their own innovations or their own new phrasing on earth. The one thing which I welcome very much is that we are beginning to think when we talk about creativity of something which is beyond the arts and even beyond the sciences it is that when you see now these businessmen getting interested in creativity and trying to train executives in creativity now they are not after the art obviously. They may be using the arts or they think they maken can get their cues from the
art. But what they're really after is a kind of alertness of mind in the very general sense which is not even served very well by technique. I don't think we always emphasize technique too much. What You Need Is that an openness of response and that accessibility of your of your resources which somehow does not seem to be there just to train these children in all sorts of techniques and they're technically very good about all sorts of things but you don't have is that that's that access to their spontaneity which makes their work different from the work of other people. It does seem to me that you're quite correct but the problem is precisely the question how can you take a specific technique and produce in a given two hours man this action of imagination which then will be rich. There is. It seems to me that here you've got the kind of reflection in this wider field that you've indicated that the old conflict between imitation and imagination and so on because here quite
clearly in the arts and in the sciences and so on what we are now they're asking for is imitation what we're asking for is in some sense probably a creative mind to go past a mirror copy past the mirror imitative past the mirror technique although we all agree I think that this would be a condition for it were written by men. I think one of them one of them is that if a person is gifted he doesn't need any technique which of course is contrary to the experience of every great artist and every great scientist who ever lived. They're just the ones who want most the mastery of technique. They use it as a tool. It's not a mastery but that method probably isn't even worth their attention but it's very professional when you talk about the discipline of the artist a lot of people say well that's only for those who are gifted. And there's a great danger in the misinterpretation of the word spontaneity to mean that somehow one should be untrammelled by tradition which we see tend to see tradition as something that's limiting instead of being the thing that makes it possible to create.
And if you look at a culture like Pollock for instance where in the home of barley there are no amateurs in the sense of people who do things. On purpose casually and lightly and dont put their whole effort into it. But the simplest answer in the most mountain village is trying to dance as well as she can and this creates and you notice how we keep using the word create in terms we're trying to create an environment for creating conditions for creativity which I think is not unmeaningful. I think you are putting an emphasis there on the element of concentration and I think this may be one of the great difficulties today. It may be that it is the simplest us that most of our children and most of our high school students for instance are not put very often into the situation in which you collect all your forces. And this is one of the things which is characteristic for any decent creative act and probably for your ballet dancers talk to
me. Where are what you can do is you are able to muster all your force at a certain moment and do it with all the concentration you have in you. And unless you can do that you have fun. You have Thai version you have leisure time activities you have recreation and all this has nothing to do with what we're talking about. This is diversion. I suppose you could get these basic ideas these basic principles worked into our educational system so they'd be effective pragmatically effective and you produced a generation that was rich in people whose creative impulses had not been suppressed. How are you going to support these people in a society like ours there are plenty of course ways in which artists can live which are not by their art. And there are ways in which artists live by well the usual phrases by prostituting their art.. But every society has to face the problem of keeping alive the artist unless the artist is going to be not amateur in the wrong sense to me and
I feel about that just as you do. But amateur in the sense that he makes his living some other way. He doesn't make his living by his art.. How are we going to support the artist an artist. You know I would think that we're the richest society in the world and we're richer than any society the world has ever known. We don't have such an enormously high quarter of artists and musicians at the moment. I think we could very comfortably support everybody in this country who seriously wants to paint or write music or do any any of these things for quite a while before we really need to worry much about the economics. If we were serious about and you let them decide whether or not they were serious for quite a long period whenever you comes forward and says I seriously want to be a part you have a public subsidy for as long as he was seriously spending his time and I would of course put him in a situation where other poets or other painters or other musicians were the ones who judged whether he was seriously doing this or not. Now to just criticize and and slap him down but to give in the
environment within which a seriousness could be tested seems to me to put another dimension on the words. Sport is not only economic support their spiritual support. We've got to give them both. It seems to me that what we've got to do is to is to. Train our own people to understand that not every such effort is Dr. Norman Dr. Mead has been describing but not every effort has a practical. If we can make people see that the core of our society is genuine originality and this it seems to me is the primary function of fine art that is what the trial an artist does is really something that is very interesting because he does give us a picture of a society but it does so much more and if we can if we could take our audience and our critics and the people who have to use a technical phrase you have possibilities prosthetic experiences. If we can make them see that originality is a value in itself and then can be used in order to make other people creative and use this technique in another way then I think we will solve it and we have to have a pedagogy to do this. This is for the psychology.
I wanted to know how much you like the distinction between fine art and applied art. Don't you feel that there's something awfully wrong there. There is as I will talk to people in the art schools which I often do. I find that the student in the applied arts feel inferior and the student in the Fine Arts does not. They don't know what to paint about. In other words there's a lack of content in the world one department and there's a lack of of dignity in the art and that comes from this. Artificial split which shows itself as a symptom I think in the difficulty to make a living financially because no in no other culture there has been this distinction and the lack of this distinction has been the reason one of the reasons why the artist had a place in society but a thing such as fine art has never existed I know of has no as you know we're getting up against Also the distinction between the scientist and other people which is just as bad as say between the scientist and science teacher.
That at the moment out just as we don't have the number of great artists I'd rather say great in this connection in the sense that Dr nom perhaps meant it when he said Fan and the great scientist we were worried about whether we have enough of them. We're isolating them further instead of creating a continuum that goes all the way from everyone who does something lovely with their hands even bake a good cake and work as a technician accurately in a laboratory all the way up to the great original artist or scientist who really should be simply at the pinnacle of a fast pyramid and organically related to it and who is often very definite practical social needs applied applied art in a very real sense most of your great Renaissance painters were engaged in applied. That's right. But I think I would support the view that there is a difference between great or fine art and art because I I think that wherever you get technical art to get
practicality which is dissociated from the fact that people have different interests can appreciate symphonies or great paintings that is it doesn't matter really whether they believe in a given religion it's something to picture it has a technical quality and technical value which they would appreciate and I want to appreciate and I think this is precisely what I want to say namely that out of these technical arcs comes something which is not technical in that sense but it's technical in the sense in which you mentioned namely gives us our capacity to organize our energies in order to be original. That is if we have originality in us. Aren't you saying all the other we can't do anything to improve the productivity of our culture creativeness unless we improve our culture on every level in every aspect of it. That you can't just off in a corner here produce a few geniuses that will give us great art and great science but the rest of us have to do something too. Yes and also I think when we're saying that we have to do specific things such
as create the sea I keep using the word because I believe that culture building is a creative activity. There are crimes of creativity that do not show up in objects of art that we need situations where people who are interested in the arts and in the sciences. Young people and older people can meet and have long leisure contact with each other. We can't just improve our culture you know and have a good artist spotted every seven miles over the country and expect to get anywhere at all. We have to question them. Rational seems to me you've heard precisely what ought to be said reiterated namely that not all creativity and art and if we could make people realize that one of the great instruments for originality and creativity is art which doesn't end then Art doesn't necessary. It's the proof that it is good. Isn't the production of a fine artist or a technical artist but a better man in the sense that he is more developed. If there is no one now even though no one else does so
how do we go about that. I think one of the points which was just mentioned is the decay of the art of conversation. That is art has always flourished in conversation and has always needed it and what it needed most. More than almost anything else was not to have to be taken seriously all the time because one of the advantages of conversation is not only the exchange of ideas but that you can do your Was the things with which you are concerned. What is a lever which is not at a high pitch of the work of art. And this is what these people doing in the cafes and in this is what is one of the troubles I think over here when Picasso paints a plate which is alright in a culture in which you talk about art in the cafes and you play around with it and you get to play it over to this country and you put it on the wall and you ask is this a work of art. That's the beginning of the end. There is you. You have to see that you deal with art on all levels and that you have to be to be able to be light about it and to move as a part
of the conversation about it. And that goes a long way. It means and doesn't that we've got to participate or appreciate whichever we have a chance to do in our culture if we're going to make a real contribution to the betterment of the conditions in which creative work has been done. Now there seems to be in all the talks that we've had and this is a kind of summary of what has gone on just as this talk summarizes what philosophers and scientists think about their own work. So we can summarize in a sense what has been said in all of our talks we can draw some general principles from our conversations with creative artists and scientists and philosophers. There's a fairly substantial agreement among the people who want to know what they're talking about since we're talking about what they do that there are some conditions which help creative work and some which hamper them. There are things which make a man or a woman who is gifted give everything he's got. And there are some things that discourage him and I suppose basically freedom is the
condition which is most important. By this I mean freedom of the sort that the artist or thinker himself will feel he must feel free what he would define as freedom is freedom and it is entirely consonant with discipline because discipline is self imposed. The artist doesn't work under disciplines which other people contrive for him. He works under a discipline which he has put himself. And this heroic kind of self-control which all the artistes even those who see most Bohemian most unaware of the conventions of the society around them. This is self control. This heroic restraint is what gives them a chance to express their inspiration in forms that communicate now a general principle a second general principle which seems to come out of these conversations. Is that what is truly creative must come out of the experience of the Creator his own experience not something
he got second hand. That makes it valid. This is artistic honesty. Both the scientist and the artist use the raw material of what has happened to them what they've seen or felt or surmised or figured out and out of these things. They make the valid communications which fit our experience and give us the values that which they have to offer. The creative imagination in other words is responsible as well as free. We didn't get programs of education out of these guests of ours. Nothing formal. We did get the repeated suggestion that you can't respond to ideals unless it gets acquainted with them that you can't expect young musicians to blossom in a society unless they hear a great deal of music. But you can't expect young scientists to find out that they are young scientists unless they are acquainted with the advancing steps in the conquest of knowledge seems like a commonplace. It's evident enough that there are people who seem not to understand
this. There are people even in the educational world who talk as if they thought ability would make itself felt would achieve what it had in it no matter what the conditions were. Now this I'm afraid is a tragic mistake and everybody that we've talked to seems to agree. Now this series has been an attempt to bring you into touch with men and women of creative minds just to learn what they think about themselves and about others like them. If we can understand all the implications of what they had to say. We can get an illumination of a very critical point very critical area in American culture. We may get some ideas of how we can do what obviously we need to do not to save ourselves but to be as great as we hope to be to keep ourselves constantly creative constantly on the outer edges of invention of discovery. The imagination are what we have called the creative mind
Creative mind
The creative mind
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features Rudolf Arnheim, Margaret Mead, and Milton Nahm speaking on creativity.
Other Description
This series, hosted by Lyman Bryson, presents radio essays about the creative process for the American artist and scientist in the 20th century.
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Fine Arts
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Guest: Mead, Margaret, 1901-1978
Guest: Arnheim, Rudolf
Guest: Nahm, Milton C. (Milton Charles), 1903-1991
Host: Bryson, Lyman, 1888-1959
Producer: Summerfield, Jack D.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-44-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:08
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Chicago: “Creative mind; The creative mind,” 1964-05-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 20, 2022,
MLA: “Creative mind; The creative mind.” 1964-05-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 20, 2022. <>.
APA: Creative mind; The creative mind. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from