Charlie Cannon: Board of Visitor Keynote

Arts & Innovation

These remarks, delivered on November 7, 2014, to Board of Visitors at our annual event, followed Charlie Cannon’s keynote address, and introduced the activity that would follow:

As Charlie has demonstrated, we are in the midst of such unprecedented change that “innovation” is almost understatement.

There is a new world emerging from under our feet—whether we like it or not–and we can be subject to that change, bear witness to it, or be actively engaged in shaping it.

If we want to be active participants, we must be collectively and collaboratively engaged in the critical and creative act of reimagining old systems. As Maxine Greene, one of my all-time favorite educators put it, the arts give us a lens, “to defamiliarize what has become familiar.”

Charlie has told us about this and has demonstrated redefining the world around us, re-appropriating language, creating a noun (a creative) from an adjective. Redefining:

“Studio” as a frame of mind, a practice, a process, a community, a space.

It’s about how you see the world…

How you interact with the world…

How you create the world.

“The arts can awaken us to alternative possibilities of existing, of being human, of relating to others, of being other” (Greene). That is why it is essential that they are central to the curriculum.

The disciplines matter—they are “cumulative modes of sense-making” (Greene). They provide us with familiar tools, but creatively applied to real-world questions and problems in the studio that is the world around us, we see them with fresh eyes. They become relevant; they become alive.

It is a particular challenge for adults to de-familiarize the familiar. The trenches of our habits and understandings run deep. Students live closer to possibility. They are the ones who will shape this unfolding and unprecedented world—and we who work in schools that care enough to educate them by re-imagining and reinventing the unfolding world with them are among the most fortunate of 21st century dwellers.

We are charging you now with a research mission—should you choose to accept it. You will find your charge on a piece of paper in your folder. You are each assigned to a group; each group is asked to find evidence in action,  here at Worcester Academy, of one of the 4c’s of communication, collaboration, critical thinking or creativity. You have an itinerary to help you find classes, activities and personnel who are waiting to welcome you as you engage in your research project.


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