Arts and Science Make The Whole Person

I love it when themes come together for me. Apropos to yesterday’s entry about the place of arts in the classroom, I saw that the TED site released a talk by Mae Jemison where she discusses how being analytical and creative are not mutually exclusive. In college, her studies left her about equally likely to become a doctor as a dancer. She says her mother essentially made the decision for her. While she ended up going into space, she brought an Alvin Ailey poster along for the ride on the space shuttle.

One of her observations is when she turns the common assumptions that one is either creative or analytic around. She notes that people will often joke about not being able to grasp math and science or lack creative and artistic abilities. She suggests that given the choice of jobs where you either had to be uncreative or illogical, people would seek out jobs that allowed them to do both. Granted, for many jobs these are de facto status of employees and people willingly place themselves in that situation but they still have the freedom to encounter complementary experiences.

I think her point is that people sell themselves short in relation to their analytic and creative abilities in a way that becomes self-reinforcing and gradually colors our self perception.

If arts people are truly invested in promoting arts and creativity as necessary to become a whole person, I believe that cause is best served by also promoting the idea that analytic capabilities are important and contribute toward the whole person goal as well.

Analysis and creativity can’t be divorced from one another. I think I have mentioned before that the lectures that occur in our tech theatre classes sound a lot like my high school physics class. The backstage of a theatre is one big practical physics lab. And without an analytic mind, I would have never figured out why our ticket office reports weren’t quite resolving themselves for a show last month.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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