Oct 23, 2020 | LIFE | By Mariel Zech | Photos by Bibi Powers

The Creativity & Innovation Center at Colorado College is one of my favorite places on campus, and you should definitely check it out when the circumstances allow. Seriously.

Perhaps you wouldn’t know it from looking at the small building nestled at the corner of Cache la Poudre and Weber Street, but there’s a lot going on in there. There’s a meditation room, a laser cutter, and an abundance of art supplies.

Last year, I always looked forward to heading over to the center for Creative Mondays, when the craft table opened and allowed students to go crazy from 3 to 5 p.m. Patterned construction paper, paint, magazine cutouts, glitter, pom-poms, and excerpts from poems and books would be strewn over the table in a wonderful display.

Zoe Lilak ’20 took a class called The Moving Line — which was focused on honing creative and mindfulness skills — with Professor Jane Hilberry and Professor Barbara Bash in 2018. Lilak and her classmates were greatly moved by the supportive atmosphere in the classroom. After the block came to an end, they wanted to continue having a space to share the joy of creation together. Through a collective class effort, Creative Mondays were born.

“Creative Mondays are very special to me because they allowed a space for me to always do something for myself, engage in new ideas, and gather in a positive community,” Lilak said. She described creativity as “intellect, emotions, and mood all tied up in a bundle.”

This year, Creative Mondays take place over Zoom. When I joined the Zoom last Monday, I was surprised there weren’t just students in attendance: there were alums, faculty members, and staff as well. We were scattered across the country, but we all had the common goal of wanting to connect and create. Some of us were doodling, some were collaging, some were writing in a stream-of-consciousness format, and some just showed up to chat.

Connecting over Zoom may not be ideal. We would all prefer to be in a physical space where we could make eye contact with each other, share paintbrushes, and pass the glue, but there is a collective understanding that seeing each other over Zoom is much better than nothing.

I spoke to Jane Hilberry, the Professor of Creativity and Innovation, about the role of the Innovation Center at CC. Hilberry explained to me that there are three branches of the Innovation Center philosophy: mindfulness, risk and resilience, and creative problem solving.

In our conversation, we focused primarily on creativity, which Hilberry described as “exploring territory I might not be familiar with.” We talked about how college can be stressful when students feel like they always have to be “on” — whether that takes the form of working hard in class or feeling the pressure to overschedule extracurriculars.

Creative Mondays can be a space to step away from that pressure and just enjoy the process of creating and reconnecting with your imaginative self. You don’t need to be “good at art” in order to engage in this environment.

If you’re like me, meaning your artistic talent plateaued when you were eight, it can be restorative to do something just to have fun and to learn more about yourself.

We also talked about how creativity can be a space for us to process life’s challenges, experiences, and complexities. Hilberry explained that “creative work has the power to transform experiences that are difficult.” Many masterpieces in the realms of music, art, literature, film, and more were born out of someone processing their struggles in a creative way. It can be cathartic to get your thoughts, anguish, or confusion down on paper through a unique perspective.

Additionally, creativity can also be a medium in which to set goals. I know many people who enjoy making “vision boards,” which are essentially collages of inspiring and aesthetically pleasing images that capture the energy or vibe that person wants to achieve. Whether you’re trying to express something difficult or illustrate goals, creativity can allow you to envision your thoughts in a dynamic way.

Hilberry mentioned that Innovation has brought their mission to STEM classes on campus by encouraging students to present their research findings in a creative way, like through creating a movie or a piece of art.

We can build our “creative muscle” over time, and the more we give ourselves permission to engage in creative activity when we might not expect it, the more we work this muscle.

Creativity is a tool that can help us solve important issues, add texture to the fabric of society, and just experience and share joy. Sometimes it can feel like the traditional school system overlooks this crucial skill. Take matters into your own hands and check out what the Innovation Center has to offer. You can find the links to Zoom meetings for Creative Mondays in the CC Digest.

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