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January 15, 2011

Embracing the non-knowing

Thumbnail image for Meklit half shot high res[1].jpgToday the web magazine Edge published the answers to its annual "question of the moment." This year's heady inquiry was: What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit? I didn't read all of the 151 responses by some of our biggest brains, but I read many of them and was instantly reminded of a conversation I had last month with the musician Meklit Hadero (pictured here -- photo courtesy of her). 

Hadero and I were preparing for the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference, and I asked her about the new APAP program for artist fellows she was heading. My question was: What can the rest of us learn from artists, particularly in tough economic times?

Her answer could easily have been published in the Edge lineup, but instead it appeared in Inside Arts, the magazine I edit for APAP.

"We conduct so much experimentation in our everyday lives about how to be artists," Hadero said. "You do it creatively. You do it economically. You do it in terms of how you tour and the ensembles you want to play with. And you're always experimenting. Right now, we're in a place where we don't know what's going to happen in the arts, and we don't know how the field is going to change and develop and morph and shift. The thing that's going to get us through and help us adapt the most will be our creativity and our ability to take risks -- which artists are doing all the time. In order to survive, you have to constantly be experimenting, and that's the spirit of openness and willingness -- to embrace the not-knowing, the ability to be flexible and to be responsive creatively to changing circumstances. Artists are great at that."

At the conference, Hadero and I heard many attendees talk about the value of creative thinking -- the type artists and scientists do every day. I suspect arts journalists, particularly those of us who are freelance, have a special insight into this mode of thinking, too. In the process of problem-solving, the best in our fields are fearless about risk, open to discovery and dedicated to finding meaning in unexpected places.

You can read an analysis of the Edge "mini abstracts" in today's Guardian, but you might find stimulating and useful answers if you contact the artists in your community and pose a similar question: What artistic process would improve everybody's toolkit? My guess is that most of the answers will cite risk, discovery, letting go and, yes, embracing the non-knowing.

January 15, 2011 9:20 AM | | Comments (1)

1 Comments

Relying on your instanct is tough for most of us. It takes years to build confidence. It doesn’t really just happen if you know what I mean.

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