U of M leads effort to integrate "arts practices" at research universities

Mar 25, 2012

The University of Michigan is leading an effort to get the arts to play a bigger role at research universities.

Reading, writing, and "making" are the skills Theresa Reid wants to see emphasized in higher education.

Reid is the director of ArtsEngine at U of M, and is spearheading the initiative to integrate “arts practices” at U of M and other research universities around the country. She says the creative process teaches students how to be flexible, to think in different way. It also emphasizes a more hands-on, experimental approach to solving problems.

"We live in a global and highly complex world," explains Reid, so "our grads have to be ... comfortable with ambiguity and incredible complexity; comfortable across cross cultures." She says getting students to incorporate arts practices into their daily lives is "another kind of arrow in the quiver" that students can use when they're out in the real world.

Under the "Art-Making and the Arts at Research Universities" plan being developed by U of M and dozens of other research universities, business students might take an improv class, for example or dancers might work with physics majors on a movement class.

Another example Reid cites is a class that's currently being taught at U of M called "Creative Process." Here's an excerpt of the course description:

Creative Process (UARTS250) is a four-credit course that immerses students — first- year through fourth-year, from all units — in the creative process.  Team-taught by faculty from each of the North Campus units, CP provides students the opportunity to pursue intensive, hands-on creative work in four modalities — sound, motion, visual images and objects, and language — any or all of which come into play in their final course project.

The objective of Creative Process is to de-mystify creativity for students in all U-M units and years: to teach students that creativity is not a character trait or an event, but a process — one that will challenge their sense of competence and mastery, but that they can understand and eventually master, transforming both themselves and their work.

Reid describes this and other arts-making classes as human capacity building; classes that teaches students to be flexible and creative, "to think in different ways, to use all of the capacities we were born with in order to address the astoundingly big problems that we face."

Leaders from at least 30 universities came to Ann Arbor last spring to discuss the role of arts in higher ed.  Their findings and goals were published in a report this month.