The Road To Creative Enlightenment Is Paved With Cardboard

I have written before about the visual arts fair I started about two years ago to provide an opportunity for students and artists in the community to sell their work and get experiencing talking about it with people who don’t share their vocabulary.

Two weeks ago we had the fifth iteration of the event and we think it was easily the best one we have had thus far. We have experimented with the time and date a little bit. It appears that Spring is more popular than Fall in terms of artists having the time and material to participate.

We had so many applicants, that we decided to expand into a new area of the building. Previously, we had been concerns that if one or two people were placed into the overflow area that was slightly apart from the main area, they would feel slighted. Having reached a certain critical mass, we had the numbers to better populate that area. Additionally, a recent re-lamping project provided much better illumination.

A year ago we started placing art works in area businesses prior to the art fair event. We posting pictures daily on social media so people could find the artworks and at the very least generate good will for the business.  This year we saw an increase in participation by both artists and businesses. In one case, I ended up placing a work in a business on the other side of the county 45 minutes away.

Based on this alone, I would feel like we were making progress toward a goal of helping people recognize their capacity to be creative in line with the effort to build public will for arts and culture with which I am involved.

However…once again I partnered with my frequent collaborators, The Creative Cult who designed a “creative journey” visitors to the arts fair could embark upon. The journey took people along the fringes of the art fair and across three floors of the building in an attempt to find the guru who would provide the answer to creativity.

Here is a map of the odyssey

Participants were placed in the role of subjects of a tyrant who suppressed creativity. In order to escape, each party had to construct an item from a pile of supplies that would help them escape the walls of their prison. People made everything from drills to ray guns to bombs.

The next station was a field of strange flowers. When people touched the flower, they were overcome with the image of a monster. They had to draw the monster which was preventing them from being creative that day (which could be anything from lack of confidence to obligations) and a weapon with which they would slay the monster.

Next they ascended to a chasm guarded by a troll who asked riddles. The bridge was made of broken planks–but the only safe path was to step in the empty spaces rather than on the actual planks.

On the other side, they met “Steve” a guy playing video games and surrounded by half finished drawings. He never completes anything due to lack of confidence and commitment. There is always a last touch that needs to be added. There is a puzzle that needs to be solved to open the door at the top of the next level where they meet the guru face to face.

As to what the guru tells our intrepid questors, well that is for them to know.

Among the benefits I saw in this whole endeavor was that attendees were offered an alternative hands on creative activity in which they could participate at the visual art fair. If you were feeling uncertain about how to react to what you saw on display on the artists’ tables or how to interact with the creators, you could always run over and check out the crazy guys leading people around the building.

Days later when I had a little follow up conversation with one of the Creative Cult members, he remarked on how freeing the act of roleplaying was. A particularly shy member of their collaborative had fearless jumped in with both feet because he equated the whole activity as playing a Dungeons and Dragons character rather than himself leading a group of strangers.

As someone in the performing arts, this benefit of roleplay has long been apparent to me, but for people who identify themselves primary as visual artists, this was something of a revelation for them.

As they got excited about the prospect of adding roleplay to their toolbox, I started to consider how the resurgent popularity of games like Dungeons and Dragons might be employed to the benefit of arts and culture organizations.

The Creative Cult guys made a recap video of the experience that can be viewed on Facebook. I am having some problems getting it to embed successfully.


Discover the secret of creativity.Vern Riffe After Dark 5….VICTORIOUS FULL RECAP!!!!

Posted by Creative Cult Lives – cmar on Friday, April 20, 2018


There is a conspiracy to keep your creativity in a box Photo credit: Carla Bentley

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. (

My most recent role was as Executive 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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