By SUSAN JONES
Just because you can’t paint a sunset or play a sonata doesn’t mean Pitt’s Year of Creativity isn’t for you, according to steering committee co-chair Kit Ayars.
The first official activity for the Year of Creativity will be the 3rd Annual Pitt PARK(ing) Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 20, where participants turn parking spaces into temporary parklets, creative interventions and social spaces. This year's event will be on Schenley Drive in front of Posvar Hall and Hillman Library.
“We really want to get everybody at the university involved in creativity,” says Ayars, the Pitt Center for Creativity’s director of strategy and partnership. “I think there’s some preconceptions that creativity happens mostly within the humanities, and (particularly) the fine arts areas of the humanities. And that’s just not true. What we want everybody to recognize, inside and outside the University, is that creativity is happening here in all of the different disciplines, and that the University is a real powerhouse of creativity.”
She singles out engineers as being an unrecognized group of creatives.
“I think that it’s been super interesting to talk to people in engineering,” she says. “They tend to not think of themselves as creators, but as makers. I respect the kind of distinction they’re making, but they’re actually — except for those times when they are making according to very specific directions — are super creative. They’re coming up with new ideas and new solutions to problems all the time.”
Look for a story in the Sept. 12 University Times about the U.Lab Hub, an engineering-based program exploring how to reinvent the 21st century university.
Ayars and Jeanne Marie Laskas, professor of English and founding director of the Center for Creativity, are heading up planning for this sixth “Year of …” initiative from the provost’s office. They’re getting help from Shawn Reming, who last year was on a temporary contract to organize the Year of Pitt Global and now is a full-time member of the provost’s staff as project manager for the “Year Of...” initiatives.
Bringing on Reming full-time shows a strong commitment from Provost Ann Cudd to the “Year Of” program, Ayars says. The program was started under previous Provost Patti Beeson, who stepped down last year.
In her announcement of the new “Year Of,” Cudd said she had been collecting information to decide whether the initiative should continue.
“Here’s what I’ve learned: There is wide-ranging and enthusiastic support for the program,” Cudd wrote. “Students find it exciting. Faculty and staff feel it makes Pitt unique. Having a Year of … theme serves as a rallying point, focuses team efforts, and encourages members of the Pitt community to work together across departmental and school divisions. In short, it brings the Pitt community together. For these reasons, I’m pleased to put my wholehearted support behind the program.”
So far, a steering committee has been formed and the Year of Creativity website is now live. But most importantly, the request for proposals for projects is now open to all members of the Pitt community, who can apply for up to $5,000 in funding.
Ayars says they are specifically looking for projects that are interdisciplinary.
“We firmly believe that there’s this rich potential in the places where disciplines cross or intersect or maybe just come in somewhat proximity … that space right in the middle there is really rich for creative potential,” she says. “(We’re looking for) proposals that take advantage of that. And then just proposals that recognize that creativity works from the head and the heart, but there’s a physical aspect to it. So that in some ways, there’s a tactile/making thing going on. That could be dance or that could be an app.”
There will be activities throughout the year in the Center for Creativity in the basement of the University Store. One set of workshops is called “Bound and Unbound,” which will start on Sept. 24 with participants making a personalized blank book. This series is in preparation for a new Center for Creativity space planned in spring 2020 when the newly renovated third floor of Hillman Library opens. The space, called “Text and Context,” will include a Vandercook Press and “there will be paper making, book binding, calligraphy, and all kinds of ways of playing with text and the notions of text,” Ayars says.
The Year of Creativity is intended to engage all of Pitt’s campuses. Last year, 15 percent of the projects to receive funding for the Year of Pitt Global came from the Bradford, Greensburg or Titusville campuses, according to Reming. Ayars says they definitely want to include Johnstown this year.
One easy way for faculty members to get students and themselves involved in creative activities is to reserve the Center for Creativity workshop for one of their classes. They recently made a video to show off what the center has to offer. The center grew out of the 2015-16 Year of the Humanities.
They also want to make the University community aware of classes that are “interdisciplinary creative in their mission. Joe Samosky’s ‘Art of Design’ class in the engineering school is open to undergrads from all of the schools, but I think a lot of students don’t realize that,” Ayars says.
Nichole Mitchell Gantt, the new head of Pitt’s Jazz Studies program, also is teaching a class this fall called Creative Arts Ensemble, which is open to all students. The course is described as a “high-level performing and research ensemble that unifies musicians, poets/spoken word artists, dancers/movement artists, and/or visual artists.” And the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics has an interdisciplinary creativity class, the Studio in African American Poetry and Poetics, that it has offered since fall 2017.
As new activities and events are added, they will be posted on the University Calendar under the group "Year of Creativity."
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 412-648-4294.
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