Teaching & Learning in the museum district
Cultivating Creativity: The Role of the Director of Fine Arts
By Courtney Daniell-Knapp, Director of Fine Arts
My mother referred to me as "the sensual baby" because from the very beginning I was so tactile, testing out every surface with my tiny digits. My experience of the world is dominated by my senses. I talk about seasons in terms of how they feel on my skin. I've painted every room in my house a different color. I remember the taste of my favorite tarte au citron in France and the smell of cedar trees from Christmas at my grandmother's house. And when I hear music, I typically must move.
I think living sensorially has contributed to my life as a conductor of music. I have to speak about music to those making it in a variety of ways. I must appeal to their different imaginations, motivate them to excellence as well as speak to them about the mechanics of singing individually and as a choir in order that their music is a gift to those who hear them.
I am a product of a "Presbyterian School" of sorts. In my history is a school where I was nurtured by loving teachers, challenged to stretch myself academically and encouraged to explore my talents. It was a wonderful environment in which to learn and to grow. I am extremely grateful that my parents sacrificed to give my sister and me a setting in which we could thrive. It is no accident that I should find myself back in a school environment so like the one that I loved in my youth.
My "Presbyterian School" did not have a Director of Fine Arts in those days, so I do not have a model for the new role I'm inhabiting this year. I bring to this assignment my desire for all people, regardless of age, to exercise their imaginations. The Fine Arts should ignite our curiosity, spark creative thinking and embolden us as more sentient beings.
So how does that translate into my daily work? I believe I am in place to increase our student's contact with fine arts: be that in the rich arts environment that we find across our streets and one light rail ride away or on the walls and in the sanctuary of their school building. We want a school culture that considers beauty and cultivates understanding. My charge, which I relish, will be to encourage a culture of creativity where the arts are woven into the fabric of our students' lives so that they may realize their human potential.
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