"Creativity is one of our greatest sources of energy, and creative expression is what makes it operational in our lives. Unfortunately, too many people are cut off from this powerful force"
Catch the Fire: An Art-Full Guide to Unleashing the Creative Power of Youth, Adults and Communities is a book that encourages facilitators to use the power of the arts to bring vitality into group encounters. While it is designed for people who are working with youth, the principles and practices are applicable to adult groups as well.
I was an arts educator before my current job in a corporate setting. I switched from just teaching art after encountering people at arts workshops that just needed to talk and connect. In my current role, I lead workshops in a corporate setting that are mostly content-based, and need to be livened up. This book acts as a great entry point for incorporating artistic and creative activities into group workshops and programs. It sets out key program elements and offers over 100 easy to read activities—even if the person leading is not an artist.
"The closing of a program is as important as the opening. You have brought people together, created a strong container, worked together within that container, and now it is time to depart. An intentional closing is needed, no matter the length of your program"
When I worked as a drama teacher, I ended each class with a closing circle. It created structure for the class, and helped young students learn to witness and say something positive about their classmates. In a corporate environment, I end presentations with “any questions”? What kind of ending is that? Even worse, I think about the many conferences and training sessions I have attended that end with the audience clapping for an inspiring leader – but not offering the audience a chance to reflect and express how they will use the conference learnings in their own lives.
Taylor and Murphy explain that closing each program with an intentional activity gives encouragement to participants about the next steps in their lives. It offers an opportunity to reflect on what was learned or experienced and how the new knowledge can be used moving forward. It also offers a chance for a meaningful good-bye.
I teach a workshop next week – most excited about the ending!
Life is but a stream
"Ask participants to imagine that their life is a stream that began at birth and has flowed to the present time. Using 18” x 24” drawing paper and oil pastels or crayons, they are to draw their personal streams with twists and turns to represent the people and experiences that have formed them"
Taylor and Murphy state that the “My Life as a Stream” activity is a favorite of participants. While I like the idea of this activity in terms of personal reflection, this activity has value for people examining their professional and business activity. I tried a similar activity with a person reflecting on their career with great success. I asked him to draw a stream of all his jobs. All the jobs he had that were not enjoyable were the thin parts of the stream, with rocks showing. There was a patch of river that was long without turns – a time when he was “coasting on the job”. It made it easier for my client to talk about his work history. In a workshop dealing with business strategy, this activity could work as an introduction piece – how has your business flowed? What are your businesses twists? What are the turns? After participants draw their rivers, they talk for 5-10 minutes giving a tour of their river, explaining the obstacles and wins. This is an interesting and memorable way to share information about your past (whether personal or business).
The Arts are Good for Business
"First, spending time being creative together at a conference – even one on a theme such as science or activism – activates learning and motivates people to return to the work at hand more energized and open. And second, people are more courageous about having difficult conversations when a strong community has been developed through taking creative risks together"
While I don’t believe that every boardroom should be full of business people reading poetry (well, I kind of do), the arts have a power of getting to people that just doesn’t happen with power point presentations. Finding a way to integrate the arts into training and development programs makes the learning experience more interesting and forces people to be creative and take risks together, and ignites cooperation and collaboration. It makes sense to use it more often.
Catch the Fire is a valuable resource for people wanting to incorporate the arts into their existing programs. It contains over 100 easy to lead activities. Even if you only found one to make your Friday morning meeting more interesting – this would be worth owning.
Do you lead a conference or workshop? What ways are you encouraging risks and expression? Could the arts work for you?