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INCIDENT No.78: Steven Careau

The Latin root of the verb to invent is invenire, “to come upon.”

The inventive process can seem strange, even bewildering, to many students. Coming from an environment of consumption and standardization, students have seldom been asked to find inventive solutions to challenges and are thus ill prepared for inventive activities.
    Most beginning students face the challenge of creative exercises, at least initially, with an intellectual bias: they want to think up a response. Although thinking is obviously an important aspect of any intellectual endeavor, equally important, especially in the visual arts, is doing—manipulating materials and exploring techniques. If the classroom is to become an arena of exploration, the teacher must create an environment of richness—one rich in materials and methods. It is especially important that the teacher, serving as the creative guide, direct students to those materials and techniques that lie outside their common experience and range of comfort, as well as to those not usually associated with art.
    Equally important for the teacher is an understanding of the intuitive response. Intuition, as a form of knowledge, seems independent of rational thought, a form of felt knowledge, mysterious, almost revelatory. But this response, offering its sense of rightness and wrongness to decision making, may in fact be a handicap: that which seems intuitively right may, in fact, reflect merely received knowledge. If we do not want students to come upon what they already know, the intuitive response must be rationally questioned and directed. Students must be exposed to materials, methods, and situations that challenge their sense of normal. The foundation on which their creative decisions are made must expand and deepen, and a new sense of normal must develop and come to seem right to them.

On display: Metaphysical Boats by Steven Careau, professor, and three-dimensional works by first-year fine arts students at Columbia-Greene Community College.

For more information on this topic, see Steven Careau, Invention and Understanding: A Pedagogical Guide to Three Dimensions