It reminds me of the idea of “Creative Confidence” from David Kelley. (Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read the book) I think many adults have the issue of feeling like if they didn’t get to a high level of obvious skill with something (ex. painting), they no longer consider that something they “can do”. I’ve heard the anecdote from teachers & researchers where they say if you ask a kindergarten class if they consider themselves artists, everyone’s hand goes up. Middle school, some hands. Adults, nearly zero hands (probably the people who are literally full-time artists and a couple of confident creators). I think it’s really important to create spaces where people realize they have the power to create themselves, and DON’T need hand-holding to make things.
We forget that we did crafts nonstop in elementary school, so who is to say we can’t keep doing them for fun now? Making and creating are not about increasing your skill (if someone took a painting class because they literally wanted to improve their technique, that would be different than playing around and exploring) and I think the grown-up environment is lacking more opportunities for open-ended play.
I agree that Paint Nites are a fun social experience, and a good way to be guided through an activity so that with minimal prior skill, you can end up with something nice-looking.
On the other hand, I think this paint-by-number kind of experience perpetuates the idea that if what you create doesn’t look like what you think art “should look like”, it’s a waste of your time to try.
I’m not sure something open-ended WOULD attract the same interest because people would be intimidated. My friends have been inviting me to MakerSpaces and I’ve resisted because I’m afraid I’ll walk in and look around and not know what to do (I know nearly nothing about hardware). It’s a silly fear; is that really so bad? Walking into a space and needed help getting started?
When I tell people that I dance, I get two responses that I dislike (some people respond positively, too, but these are illustrative):
- Yeah I love dancing, too. I went to the club last weekend
- Oh I’m so bad at dancing, that’s cool
1 is more about people not understanding or respecting dance as an art form, but 2 is the one that bothers me in this context of creative learning.
Obviously, people practice for years to get better at the techniques of different art forms. No doubt that real skill and technique are important. But somehow, because of a work-centric adult life (where we make a living off of specializing in a valuable skill set), people have forgotten how to enjoy something without being highly skilled at it. When I tell people I “love to dance”, I don’t mean “I am great at dance, I do it all the time, and it’s fun to be good at it”, I mean “I literally enjoy the act of dancing”. These go hand-in-hand (as we get better at something, we enjoy it more: http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/10/16/the-passion-trap-how-the-search-for-your-lifes-work-is-making-your-working-life-miserable/) but they don’t HAVE to ONLY go hand-in-hand.
That was a pretty long-winded response but clearly I am full of opinions about this, hahahaha!