Preparations for Year of Creativity underway


Image via University of Pittsburgh

Pitt’s “Year of Creativity” for 2019-20 will be the sixth theme in the University’s “Year of” series.

By Vaibhav Gupta, Staff Writer

During Pitt’s “Year of Global” in 2018-19, students, staff and faculty were encouraged to consider the world beyond their campus. Now heading into its sixth year, the “Year of” initiative wants the Pitt community to take a look inward.

The Year of Creativity will be the sixth incarnation of Pitt’s “Year of” series of themed academic years. Last year’s Year of Pitt Global kicked off with the Global Carnival, followed by workshops and lectures focused on enhancing the community’s international connections and understanding.

The forthcoming Year of Creativity is led by a 33-member steering committee, chaired by the University Center for Creativity’s Kit Ayars and Jeanne Marie Laskas, an English professor and the Center’s founding director.

Ayars, the Center’s director of strategy and partnerships, said the theme of creativity was chosen in an effort to help encourage interdisciplinary learning among students and faculty.

“It is a perfect time because the University has really begun to embrace interdisciplinary work and creativity as a factor in all of the University’s disciplines,” Ayars said. “I don’t mean just the academic disciplines, those are obviously key, but also the whole University makes use of creativity.”

According to Ayars, there will be numerous programs throughout the academic year for students in the Center for Creativity, which will lead most of the Year of Creativity’s initiatives. The Center, which opened in 2016 as part of the Year of the Humanities and is located in the basement of the University Store on Fifth, offers an inclusive environment for students to engage in art, music, writing and other activities that nurture creativity.

Upcoming programs include Bound & UnBound, a series of text-based workshops hosted by the University Library System which focus on different themes, from making your own journal to experimenting with creating zines. Another planned program is Sunday Stanza in the Center for Creativity, which hosts informal poetry workshops focused on incorporating other forms of art.

According to Ayars, the Center is open to nurturing all kinds of forms of creativity. In the past, faculty members across disciplines, from marketing to sciences, have used the Center as a resource for learning. Ayars explained a History of Medicine class used the Center to create some of the medical artifacts that students they learned about in class.

According to Josh Groffman, a member of the Steering Committee and an assistant professor of music at Pitt Bradford, students can get involved at multiple levels for the Year of Creativity. He said in an email students can also propose new ideas that the University can help fund and implement.

One of our biggest hopes for this initiative is that we will get lots of proposals from students and student groups! I would encourage everyone to check out the Request for Proposals, which gives a sense of what sorts of activity can be funded and how to apply,” Groffman said.

The Year of Creativity will also offer students, faculty and staff resources for pursuing their own creative projects, whether they are events, performances, productions or experiments. Pitt community members can apply anytime before March 31, 2020, for up to $5,000 from the Year’s Steering Committee to fund creative projects hosted in line with the Year of Creativity’s mission.

Aishwarya Ramesh, a rising sophomore studio arts and neuroscience major as well as a photography enthusiast, said creativity is not only representative of artistic ability, but also includes an inventive component.

“A lot of people are creative, and they’re creative in ways that aren’t just in artistic ability, because you can be very creative in an original and innovative way and not be creative in necessarily artistic ability,” Ramesh said. 

According to Evan Fracher, a member of the Steering Committee of the Year of Creativity as well as the vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the Innovation Institute, the Year of Creativity will help have a plethora of events reflecting different aspects of creativity on campus.

“I think that the Year will help students in that it will provide a full year platform for students to see all the creative aspects the University has to offer. This runs the gamut of art and music to philosophy and science to innovation and commercialization. All of these areas have creativity aspects and will be showcased during the academic year,” Fracher said.