Creative Kids - Paul Collard, FORM's Expert-in-Residence

Paul Collard believes creativity is essential to teach children - and it's not too late for adults.

Paul is CEO of UK-based kids education foundation Creativity, Culture & Education, and he has been 'expert-in-residence' at FORM's newly unveiled 'The Goods Shed' in Claremont this month.

I saw Paul speak to a group of parents and teachers about how important creativity is - and will be - for children growing up into a complex, changing future, and how 'creativity' is actually multi-dimensional, involving elements of resilience, discipline, curiosity and interactivity. He explains this in our chat below.

Paul and I kept chatting after filming, and I regret running out of camera memory, as he had a lot more great, insightful things to say, a lot of which relate directly to creative capacity.

'It's about imagination'

As Paul explains in our chat, many adults do in fact use creative skills in some aspects of their lives, but in many cases we don't see ourselves as being "creative" - or we don't apply those skills 'at work'. If Paul meant that we all have creative skills and ability that we could simply try to "bring out", I asked him whether being surrounded by a community rich in arts and creativity would help us do that.

To my surprise, Paul was circumspect. Surely he wasn't about to say arts didn't have an impact on our own creativity?

He didn't (phew) - and what he said was very insightful. Paul believes a lot of arts or creative 'activity' is not really very creative. For example, learning scales on an instrument or watching TV - what matter, is whether our imagination is involved. For example, using a musical instrument to play something original or as interpreted by us, or to dissecting the narratives presented in a film. When we do this, we engage our imagination and that's when we engage - and develop - our creativity. That developed creativity then becomes something useful to us in a range of ways: at work, in family life, in our other hobbies and pastimes. It's all in how you do it.

'A language for art'

Paul also spoke about our ability to connect to art, and how that often also increases once our imagination is properly engaged. An art critic, for example, is generally seeing each new piece of art against all the works they have seen before, to compare and contrast and use the language they have developed through all of those other works, and then describing what they see now in a new work.

For many of us, we might not have a fully developed "language for art", and that can get in the way of us appreciating art more fully, and, as Paul described above, engaging our imaginations beyond simply a visual impression or reaction. I likened this 'language' to how understanding the rules of a sport can suddenly make sense (or even beauty) from what can otherwise seem a mess of people running around with a round thing. Or how a wine-tasting course can bring insight and appreciation beyond simply reacting to taste.

If we don't have time for an art appreciation course, how do we gain a 'language for art'? Paul described several techniques he uses with children, such as an artwork being verbally described to you in detail before you actually get to see it, so your imagination builds up a picture for you - then, on seeing the work, the colours, shapes and dimensions connect with what formed in your imagination. It's the engagement of your imagination that helps you to more deeply see the artist's creativity at work. It's for this reason that I believe a regular interaction with arts and creativity of all types - visual art, sculpture, design, film, music and performance - does in fact help us build our wider creative skills and capacity. The more art we see, engage with and expose ourselves to, the more we build up a 'language of art and creativity', which in turn activates and develops our own creative or imaginative abilities. It might also allow us to develop the related skills in persistence, collaboration or curiosity. By building up our experience of all those aspects of creativity, we become a lot better at being creative ourselves, and we can make the choice to apply that to areas such as our work and home lives.

In the end, it's a neat 'take away' - we are all creative beings (as I say, "to be creative is to be human, to be human is to be creative"), and we stand to benefit greatly it we develop our creativity: as individuals, as families or groups, and as a society. We can develop creativity by not only recognising its different dimensions (such as those Paul describes), but by also recognising we all have those skills already to some degree and developing them by engaging with arts and creative work in a way that engages our imaginations. Building our creative muscles.

I believe that if we do this - as individuals, groups, or as a society - we can create a future that is rich with opportunity, growth, and harmony, for us, and for our increasingly creative kids.