Nathan Sawaya, the artist behind The Art of the Brick exhibit that recently opened at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, takes creative fun seriously. While the exhibit includes innovative displays, and big bold print on the signs, it’s not interactive in the traditional “please touch” mode of museum play. In fact, kids can’t touch the displays, but they can bring their own building experience to bear on the very act of observing. More than most other materials and tools that traditional artists use, kids can relate to the art of making these playful masterpieces. At a moment in culture when The LEGO Movie continues to captivate and STEAM dominates curriculum discourse, this exhibit is situated for success.
But we took away another important insight from Sawaya – one that he champions in a short video at the start of the museum-goers’ journey – creating will make you happy. In the companion book to the exhibit, he writes, “The creation of art should never be opposed. Not just because the world could do with more beautiful things, but because there’s a mountain of evidence that shows that making art will improve your life in surprising ways…” And he continues, “Creative ideas are gifts, like windows that open up for just a short time.” Sawaya suggests LEGOs as therapy, and play as purifying. He elevates an important idea in kid culture to one that makes sense to even the most jaded adult.
Our favorite lessons for brands and organizations, content creators and innovators?
- Don’t assume creative play ends early. Continue to see both creativity and play as viable platforms for even the oldest youth.
- Don’t just romance kids with products – entice them with process. If you have the chance to walk through this exhibit, take note of the wheels turning among kid art aficionados. The sheer number of LEGOs used can make a kids’ head spin. And parents praised the careful way Sawaya organized his many, many bricks (any parent of a LEGO fanatic can only dream!).
- Finally, consider creativity as career, not just a means to one. Sawaya spoke eloquently of losing his love of “lawyer-ly” things, and taking the bold, brave leap to full-time employment as an artist. So often, we suggest that creativity will lead to success in academic or professional endeavors, rather than recognizing that creating can be a valuable end in itself.