The Creative Spark ~ Connie Schlelein

Connie Schlelein A community arts activist, Connie Schlelein is co-chair of Creative Bridges, an alliance of 36 Sonoma Valley nonprofits and organizations working with SVUSD to improve and expand arts education. A teacher of visual arts for 30 years, she was vice president of the National Art Education Association.


Why creativity matters

Posted on May 18, 2023 by Connie Schlelein


“The pace of cultural change is accelerating more quickly than ever before, writes Liane Gabora, Psychology and Creative Studies Professor at the University of British Columbia. “In times of change we need to bump up creativity levels – to generate the innovative ideas that will keep us afloat.”

What is the benefit of creativity for you, me, and our community in the present and future? Consider its definition: creativity is the ability to both imagine original ideas or solutions and then to actually do what needs to be done to make those ideas happen. While creativity makes our personal and collective lives richer and more meaningful, it also has an astonishing capacity to improve and unify communities. It’s not only useful for climate scientists, city planners, inventors, artists, or musicians, but it is a critical skill that our kids need as they take on their roles as citizens of this world. 

It’s needed across jobs, corporate levels, and industries as it extends across fields of study and interconnects skill sets and breeds openness, agility, entrepreneurship, and adaptability. Critical thinking allows engineers to adjust to unknown complexities, drives companies from an idea to an IPO, and can breathe new life into decaying business models. 

Closer to home, you know highly creative people, however some, “The Makers,” may not think of themselves as creative. Here are five that fit the definition. 

On the Montini Trail, a beloved area is improved exponentially because Roy Tennant and others took a keen interest. By taking vision to reality, Annie Falandes and her team of Homeless Action Sonoma are working to eradicate homelessness. Through sheer dedication, Víctor Ferrer brought the splendor of Mexico’s traditional dances to Sonoma’s youth, starting the folk ensemble Grupo Folklorico Quetzalén. With the declaration of 2023 as “The Year Of The Arts,” Mayor Sandra Lowe enlisted community “Creatives” to jump-start her many aesthetic initiatives. Finally, creative organizations like the Catalyst Fund and Impact 100, encourage community collaboration and innovation for sustainable, systemic change. 

As we ponder the state of the world, human ingenuity is the great hope for salvation. Indeed creativity has been an important touchstone in human history. Anthropologists studying past civilizations observed that innovative cultures far outpaced communities bound  by rigid traditions. The ability to come up with novel, useful solutions is an important survival tool. By transmitting ideas to others and refining the solutions, together, that is when we flourish as a species.

It’s been discovered that the larger and more well-connected a hunter-gatherer group was, the greater the chance that one member would dream up an idea that could advance a technology. Individuals in a large group who frequently rubbed shoulders with neighbors had a better chance of learning a new innovation. Large, well-connected social networks actively spur human creativity. It turns out that creativity is actually a fundamental skill in our Human Toolkit, ensuring our survival as a species. 

It’s past time to re-evaluate this unique skill. We know that creativity can be taught and grown, no matter what age or social condition. 


A community arts activist, Connie Schlelein is co-chair of Creative Bridges, an alliance of 36 Sonoma Valley nonprofits and organizations working with SVUSD to improve and expand arts education. 



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