Monday, August 24, 2015

How Art Can Develop Your Brain

Can a walk through your favorite art museum increase your own creativity and ability to innovate?  Author and art historian Jonathan Fineberg thinks so! 
I turned on the radio in the car today to listen to my favorite public radio station (NCPR; North Country Public Radio broadcast from Canton NY).  The show Here and Now was on, and the story was so timely and meaningful that after I got home, I sat in my car in the hot driveway so that I could finish hearing the rest of the interview and scribble down some notes.
I want you to be able to hear this interview too, so without further ado, here's the link to the story: "How Art Can Develop Your Brain".  The interview was with art historian Jonathan Fineberg, talking about his his new book, Modern Art at the Border of Mind and Brain.  During the interview, he referenced works by Dubuffet, Calder, Motherwell, Miro, and Christo.  
Please note: the photos in this post are NOT from the book.  Rather, they are photos I have taken at visits to various art museums, and have all been previously featured in this blog.)
Fineberg's thesis is that viewing modern art makes our brains more creative.  He says when we look at modern art, we are increasing our ability to think creatively and to innovate. This is certainly an excellent bit of ammunition to have when fighting to protect our art programs!
Here's a quote from describing the book:
"Based on Fineberg’s Presidential Lectures at the University of Nebraska, his book examines the relationship between artistic production, neuroscience, and the way we make meaning in form. Drawing on the art of Robert Motherwell, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Christo, Jean Dubuffet, and others, Fineberg helps us understand the visual unconscious, the limits of language, and the political impact of art. Throughout, he works from the conviction that looking is a form of thinking that has a profound impact on the structure of the mind."
I generally prefer reading fiction, but this is one non-fiction book I definitely not only WANT to read, but is also a book that I definitely NEED to read.  But it's a new book, just out in hardcover, with an amazon price of $31.60.  Oh dear...


  1. Thanks for sharing this interview, Phyl. The notions of seeing objects in different contexts and taking time to really view one or two objects instead of scanning many (in a museum) particularly resonated with me. It reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a friend. We were talking about how when we are housecleaning and dusting treasured objects we stop to think about where they came from, their various characteristics, the angles of their design, etc. and are constantly making new discoveries and connections to things in our collections - - evidence that we can apply Fineberg's premise anywhere in life around us! Such meaningful implications for education.

    1. Christie, thanks for your response. I was so excited by this interview and am sort of surprised that it hasn't generated a bigger response.

      Meanwhile - I do exactly the same thing when I am housecleaning! Or straightening jewelry! Each pair of earrings (and I have many, many) has a specific memory of its acquisition or genesis, and a reason for my having kept it around for so long. The design, the size, the shape, the color or metal. I have now listened to the interview a second time and really want to splurge on the book. But I have a backlog on my night table....