Thursday, October 13, 2011

God’s Hand in Improvisation and Creativity

The Learning Walk, Community Park, Newton County, Georgia
designed by Hank Methvin and Eric Childs
By Hank Methvin
My artistic drive is my strongest life force. I value the consistent presence of art in my life.   Through most of my years I have understood the critical role of creative expression in my work and play. Art, drawing, and painting have always been my source of delight; my artistic creativity motivates me to embrace life’s journey.

Recognizing my Eros to be my artistic creativity is a Divine gift and provides me with an ongoing conversation with God that builds from longing and response. The visual arts offer me a spiritual language and support my bond with a universe of ideas. Art expresses my intuition and my instinct as I participate in the community of past creative work represented by generations of artists and designers. 

My connection to the world and community deepens with my study of art history, cultural traditions, and visual expression. My practice of architecture and environmental design bolster my visual vocabulary and enable me to comprehend our multidimensional world. Complex design problems demand comprehensive strategies.

In my own art and design work I recognize the challenges that interpreting our environment demands and I offer solutions for future ecological design practice; my artistic longing is nourished in ways that I could not anticipate. Art and design structure my voice and nourish my continuous prayer with God.  Producing an artistic vision demands my participation in the creative process but also calls for resources beyond my grasp. 

The artists guiding art history during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century often followed prescribed methods in the pursuit of their work. Modern design approaches were often guided by the norms and traditions shaped by new advances in technology. In contrast, postmodern design principles incorporate the dynamics of our changing world and favor creative process over the fulfillment of artistic standards.  This postmodern inclusive process replaces modern scripted practice. Improvisation is a critical tool in the pursuit of such a postmodern creative process.

As a postmodern design tool, improvisation embraces chaos in the search for order; instinctive choices complement rational procedures. Improvisational thinking explores the rich alternatives inherent in our chaotic world; new patterns and new relationships surface under the gaze of the improviser. The process of discovery is etched in the artistic product; process and new vision are fused and revealed in the improvised artifact. New ideas and traditional cultural practices collide in the hope of forming new visions and alternative perspectives. The artist participates in the fullness of history and in the breadth of possibility. 

Improvisational thinking is open-ended but the artist finds a resting point, a provisional artistic statement that motivates ongoing creative inquiry.  There is a profound dedication to the creative process; improvisation values unknowns and unknowing.  Improvisational thinking embraces the fullness of community in all its guises and the Spirit is offered room to participate in the process. 

A wide-range of contemporary artists and designers have incorporated improvisation into their creative work and process. Community participation in architectural design and urban planning is now strongly influenced by public input and improvised methodology. Public art projects are often assembled from the work of many participating parties without a fixed notion of the final outcome. 

Improvisational thinking is a creative approach that invites possibility. The source of the artistic inspiration is not predetermined. New ideas grow from the relationships and confrontations that occur during the creative process, often coming from unexpected sources.  God and the Spirit are invited to enter into the process.

Improvisation encourages us all to apply new techniques and approaches into our own work, play and devotion. In the mist of our creative journeys, the Holy Spirit can participate in the openness of our process. New turns in our work and new directions in our thinking demand full participation. We are reaching into the world of unknowns and God is always in that place, whether we are aware or just open to the fullness of creative possibility.

*Hank Methvin is an architect and environmental artist, and directs the Metropolitan Design Studio in Covington, Georgia, a program of the College of Environment and Design at the University of Georgia. Methvin is also pursuing a Master of Arts in Theological Studies at the Episcopal Divinity School, concentrating his studies on religion and ecology.

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