Lucy Bartholomee, Ph.D., 2017

How does it feel to be creative? A phenomenological investigation of the creative experience in kinetic places

2017 — “How does it feel to be creative?” Such a question, when approached from a phenomenological perspective, reveals new understandings about the embodied experience of creativity, and how it feels as it is being lived. This investigation begins with a provocative contrast of two environments where creativity is thought to manifest itself: school art classrooms, where creativity is often legislated from an authority figure, and New Orleans Second Line parades, where creativity is organically and kinetically expressed. A thorough review of the literature on creativity focuses on education, arts education, creative economies, psychology, and critical theorists, collectively revealing a cognitive bias and striking lack of consideration for community, freedom, and the lived experience of being creative. Further discussions in the literature also consider sites of creativity and the impact that place, such as a school classroom, can have upon creativity. The phenomenological perspectives of Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Bachelard, and Trigg support a methodological lens that focuses on embodied knowledge, perceptions of placeness on creativity, and the interdependent frictions between freedom, authenticity, movement and belonging. The research method includes investigations in New Orleans in archives, an examination of visual material culture, participation in cultural practice, and formal and informal interviews. Further, the phenomena of walking and wandering become a methodology for embodied data collection that clarifies the emerging rich experiences and descriptions of how it feels to be creative, especially how it feels to be creative in a creative place. Intense frictions are revealed, such as the tension between perceptions of personal freedom and high demand for authenticity in terms of New Orleans traditions. Yet, these tensions fuel the inspiration for the abundance of creativity found in New Orleans culture.