Biola celebrates the spirit of creativity

Biola’s annual Arts Symposium featured insight from creative minds.

Bethany Higa, Writer

Inspiration filled the air at Biola’s 11th Arts Symposium, which offered a variety of lectures, workshops and performances centered on the idea of creativity.

Openness to Experience

The conference took place on March 5, hosted by Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts in Calvary Chapel. Each presentation focused on the theme, “Openness to Experience: Rethinking Creativity and Aesthetic Intelligence.”

The featured presenters included cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, sculpture artist Kiel Johnson, Wheaton College professor Leah Samuelson, installation artist Betty Spackman and Pixar story supervisor Matthew Luhn. Each speaker provided a unique perspective regarding the purpose and application of creativity in their lives.

Kaufman opened the symposium with a session in which he presented his analysis about the characteristics of creativity. He found the quality most positively associated with creative thought was openness to experience — a receptiveness to change and development difficult to measure in traditional education.

“It’s important for students to feel comfortable thinking differently,” Kaufman said. “A lot of it is about being OK with ambiguity, constantly seeking the big questions in life, and not being afraid of failing, not being afraid of taking risks.”

trying to make people feel something

Other key qualities associated with creativity included persistence, purpose in life, a love of work, hope for the future and a “messy mind,” Kaufman said. However, he also argued creativity is like a muscle; it can be strengthened through exercise and cannot be lost. He suggested that to strengthen one’s openness to experience, a person should approach the things they fear in order to experience personal growth.

Following this introduction, the Arts Symposium hosted a series of talks and open conversations with the speakers as they described their vivid backgrounds, passions and motivations. Each described their distinct experiences with creativity, including team-building, personal expression and nurturing inspiration. Several short Q&A sessions also followed the discussions, allowing audience interaction. Afterward, attendees could choose one of five workshops to learn more deeply about an individual creative process.

In his Pixar storytelling session, for example, Luhn shared the idea that the most engaging stories were authentic and personal.

“As creators, we are trying to make people feel something,” Luhn said.

creativity is vital

Along with the sessions and workshops, Trevor Gomes and John Redford provided musical accompaniments during the break and luncheon party. Attendees were also encouraged to view the symposium art exhibition “EXTRA-ORDINARY THINGS” in the Earl and Virginia Green Art Gallery. By exposing the students to a variety of creative mediums, the symposium encouraged them to reflect on the impact of art in many different forms.

“I think creativity isn’t limited to the art department,” said Kayleigh Rodgers, freshman design major. “I think creativity is vital everywhere, so it shouldn’t be brushed off as only for one major.”

Students at Biola can learn to foster creativity in many fields and disciplines. This creativity is expressed not only through the arts, but through the ability to ask questions and seek truth in a personal way. Whether through art, science, business or ministry, it is a universal capability to explore new ideas and find unique paths.

“All of us are natural born storytellers,” Luhn said. “With the right tools and the right encouragement, we all have the potential to be the next directors, authors, innovators and creators.”

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