The business of creativity

At Carmen Lund’s “Big Brush” painting workshop, students discovered their inner creativity.
At Carmen Lund’s “Big Brush” painting workshop, students discovered their inner creativity. Photo by Jessica Hallam.

The secret for securing that elusive consulting job: Put down those textbooks and paint.

Carmen Lund, international artist and self-proclaimed “creative life catalyst,” spent last Sunday at the Yale Office of International Students and Scholars, or OISS, trying to unleash the creativity of the five participants in her trademarked “The Big Brush Workshop™.” Inspire Yale, formerly known as HappyHap, asked Lund to instruct three sessions of its semester-long series of art workshops, which are free to Yale students and New Haven residents and bring local artists to the University. The skills taught in “Big Brush” are more useful than those learned in the average college class for entrepreneurship, Lund said.

“In this new global economy, even if you’ve had a great education, knowledge is not enough. You need creativity,” Lund said. “You can’t just tell them what’s on page 62 of your economics book.”

Lund said she recognizes a deficit in the typical college education, in which students spend between 1,000 and 10,000 hours in classes that focus on left-brain thinking but often dedicate less than 10 hours to the creative, right-brain intensive studies that are necessary for problem-solving in the office place. Aaron Lewis ’16, a member of Inspire Yale, said many Yale students do not dedicate time to developing their preexisting creative skills because they are burdened by other obligations. “Big Brush” gives such students the opportunity to step back and embrace their artistic side, he said.

“When [participants] do art, the world slows down for them. Their lives change,” Lund said “I think if they can take risks on paper, they’ll learn how to take risks in life.”

Many participants arrive at Lund’s workshop firmly believing they cannot paint before even putting brush to paper, she said. But she added that she has not taught one person unable to embrace their creativity in the last 15 years of her teaching career. Lund plays reggae music while participants paint to “get them out of their heads” — once they realize there are no rules in the workshop, she explained, they tap into the artistic potential of which they were previously unaware.

Christian Rhally ’15, president of Inspire Yale, said the group wanted to provide the Yale and New Haven communities an outlet for creative expression and the opportunity to develop creative thinking. Rhally said that for Yale students especially, the workshop is an escape from thoughts of resume padding and homework.

“You have to dare to just paint and not think about it,” Rhally said.

Lund requires people to work together during “Big Brush.” Often, students are uncomfortable with this idea at the beginning of the workshop, Lund said, but they soon grow to respect each other and to realize that collaboration can result in something beautiful.

“Big Brush” functions as a team-building exercise — Lund recalled a workshop she held for the Yale World Fellows Program during which participants became comfortable enough with each other to run around throwing paint at one another. This sense of comfort gives participants the confidence to explore their creativity without feeling judged, she said.

“You don’t have to think, just paint, and no one’s going to judge you,” said Sophie Depelley, coordinator of the Yale Center for the Teaching of French.

The next workshop will be held at OISS on Dec. 1 from 2–5 p.m.

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