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Living an Engaged Imaginative Life

October 12, 2012

Research study of your dreams

Those of us who engage in arts education often find the lined blurred between our careers as arts teachers and our avocation.

I really enjoyed working with Dennie Palmer Wolf during the statewide arts education census work that the Maine Alliance for Arts Education and the Maine Department of Education conducted during 2008. Dennie helped us launch our Imagination Intensive Community (IIC) work as a follow-up to the census. The IIC was recognized and received a National Best Practice Award from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Dennie, whose primary focus is  presently with Wolf Brown, is an innovative thinker and her piece called Living an Engaged Imaginative Life is thought provoking. It is re-printed below with her permission. Thanks Dennie!

If a genie rose in a stream of twisted blue smoke and offered me, free of charge, an all expenses paid research study of my dreams, I would know immediately what to say. It would be a longitudinal study of three groups of young people in ordinary neighborhoods: those who become engaged with the arts, those who engage with science and technology, and others who are not particularly engaged. My army of co-researchers and I would track how these activities affect every aspect of these individuals’ lives. We would harness the growing powers of social media, asking young people to text us whenever they were engaged in their art form. A programmer of stunning insight and ability would work side by side with a gifted graphic designer to produce displays that showed a day, a month, or year in their lives. We would have the equivalent of topographical maps of what their artistic projects connected them to: real places, people, websites, books, movies, and performances. We would have the equivalent of MRIs of their imaginations. After early adulthood, we would visit them at regular intervals (like Michael Apted’s documentary Seven Up). We could look at their work, leisure, civic engagement, volunteering, and what they passed on to children or the people they mentored. In the end, we would have one way to answer, for one time and place, to two questions that preoccupy me: “What differences does living an engaged imaginative life make?” and “What differences does engagement in the arts make to the way we live our lives?”

What would you want to learn more about if you were given an all expenses paid research study of my dreams? I’d love to hear your ideas!

2 comments

  1. I love this! How about an MRI of right brain and left brain activity in those with arts education background and those without? How about a study that tracks the influence of arts education (both formal and informal) on nearly every successful inventor, architect, innovator, entrepreneur, and civic leader? We don’t study math in grade school to become Mathematicians; we don’t study geography to become Geographers! We study basic subjects to give us a foundation for a successful life and a thriving national economy. Cutting arts education out of that mix, or reducing it to an extra-curricular activity, is tantamount to cultural and economic suicide.


  2. Thanks for your comment Peter! I believe the key is understanding that all thoughtful educational offerings provide the opportunity to help young people develop into a well balanced “whole” adults and that the learning continues throughout a lifetime. We know that in the schools and communities where the arts are an essential component of a solid education that students are provided an excellent education. ~ Argy



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