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Community and Creativity
Volume: 37, Issue: 2 (2009)
Community And Creativity: A Life Stories Perspective
This article addresses the key issues, which underlie this special issue: what are the links between community and creativity? Why do some communities foster more individual creativity than others? The article discusses recent literature on both community and creativity, and arguments for the creativity of ordinary people. It then considers the case of creative researchers, who rather than being nurtured by their communities seem most often to have fled them. Finally, the article returns to creativity in the wider population, showing that this is not synonymous with craft activities, but can also be found in occupations such as fishing and mining, and also among migrant minorities.
Author(s): Paul Thompson
Keywords: community; creativity; social researchers; craft; migrants

Creativity - But Where Do You Look? A Tale Of Musicians In Milton Keynes
The ‘new’ city of Milton Keynes, with its brash reputation as a ‘cultural desert’, was perhaps an unexpected place to find notable creativity, yet an ethnographic study in the 1980s revealed a vast amount of active music-making. The article briefly reviews the findings and considers some of the factors that may - or may not - have been involved, and their interaction with ‘family’ and ‘community’. It also raises the question of how and where one looks for ‘creativity’ - is it partly a matter of the analyst's perspective?
Author(s): Ruth Finnegan
Keywords: creativity; community; music-making; amateurs; England

Learning From Watts Towers: Assemblage And Community-Based Art In California
In the 1920s, Sam Rodia, an Italian labourer and tile-setter, started work on an elaborate assemblage construction in the backyard of his home in Watts, California. He called the piece 'Nuestro Pueblo', Spanish for 'Our Town', but most people know the work simply as the Watts Towers. This paper will look at the assemblage form as a medium broadly used in California for expressing critical ideas of US society and the efforts of Noah Purifoy, founding director of the Watts Towers Arts Center and an influential African American artist, to develop a people - and community-based approach to art that challenged artists to address their work to a broader community.
Author(s): Richard Cándida Smith
Keywords: Community art; Watts Towers; Noah Purifoy; African American; California

Smooth And Rough: Creative Sociability In The Craft World
National Life Stories at the British Library (founded by Paul Thompson) has sustained projects ranging from Artists' Lives (with the Tate Gallery) to City Lives, and among these Craft Lives is a relatively new project. It is however of special value because within the visual arts the lives of craftsmen and women are under-documented, while the crafts themselves have a fragile, unstable identity, lacking the well-established institutions of the fine arts. This paper examines what forms craft communities take, the interrelationship of successive craft generations and how this influences their creativity, and the role of anecdote and narrative in generating a sense of community.
Author(s): Tanya Harrod and Hawksmoor Hughes
Keywords: studio craft; creative sociability; artists' anecdotes; furniture; textiles; Crafts Lives project

Creativity At Work: Miners And Quarrymen In Tuscany
This article makes use of oral history to study the working cultures of many communities, including car workers and engineers, and most recently a series of small working communities in Tuscany, from knife makers and leather workers to miners and the Carrara marble quarrymen. Creativity plays a different role in the work of artisans and miners. Artisans have a much freer relationship to professional traditions: they can discard them, to produce objects which can sometimes be very beautiful, sometimes horrible. But for miners, their traditional claim to creativity, to inventiveness in their work, is central to the debate between themselves and their employers about their degree of professional skill in a context of changing technology and so cannot be conceded.
Author(s): Giovanni Contini
Keywords: Work; creativity; marble quarrymen; miners; Carrara; Italy

Italian Steel Workers In The Era Of Super-Mechanisation And Globalisation: What Kinds Of Creativity?
This article draws on an ongoing project on the development and memory of a workers' struggle in Terni, against the closing of the electrical steel plant, the heart not just of the steel workers but of the town's own pride. As the Terni workers fight for their jobs, in another factory owned by the same multinational, ThuyssenKrupp, a fire burns seven workers alive. How does the consciousness of today's workers, of their sense of power and creativity, respond to such changing work technology, relations and economic globalisation?
Author(s): Alessandro Portelli
Keywords: work; creativity; steel workers; globalisation; Italy

Sources And Means Of Mixing: The Growth Of Mixed African-Caribbean And White British Families In London
Whilst black Caribbean migrants who came to Britain from the Second World War onwards were initially greeted by severe racist hostility, today the black Caribbean community has an exceptionally high rate of intermarriage with white English families. This article discusses the long-term sources of this willingness to mix, and some of the social means and contexts through which mixed families grew, illustrating this through a case study of one mixed London family.
Author(s): Elaine Bauer
Keywords: mixed relationships and families; Caribbean migration; racism; London

Muslim Families In France: Creative Parenting, Identity And Recognition
In bringing up and educating their children, Muslim immigrant parents from North Africa and living in France are very aware of the difficulty of the task. Their children face a double bind: on the one hand, French society asks them to 'integrate', that is to enter into labour markets and melt into French ways of life. On the other hand teachers, employers, the police and media keep considering them as 'the other'. Immigrant parents show tremendous creativity in trying to help their children, boys and girls differently, to cope with this double bind.
Author(s): Catherine Delcroix
Keywords: creativity; parenting; Muslim families; France

From Domestic Pot To Ceramic Doll: The Story Of Dona Izabel Mendes, Doll Maker Of The Jequitinhonha Valley In Brazil
Dona Izabel was born on a farm in northeast Brazil in 1924. Her father and all her brothers worked on the land, but her mother, like many others locally, made cooking pots for use and for sale. Izabel started working with the clay from early childhood. Today she is famous in the region as a doll maker, and her huge dolls created a style which many others followed. What kinds of knowledge have been transmitted from pre-Columbian and African cultures to become part of the identity and survival strategy of such Brazilian communities? What is the role of women in this transmission? How did Dona Izabel, almost illiterate, succeed in transforming the traditional pots into the big and beautiful dolls, which symbolise the beauty of the women of the region? Interviewed as part of the Museum of the Person's project, 'Memory of Brazilians', her life story illustrates the part which traditional knowledge can play in the contemporary transformation of Brazil. This article analyses Dona Izabel's life story and her cultural background, pointing out how individual and collective memory can relate to entrepreneurship and creativity.
Author(s): Karen Worcman
Keywords: work; creativity; women's oral history; potters; Brazil

Memories of Mass Oppression: Narrating Life Stories in the Aftermath of Atrocity
Author(s): Nanci Adler, Selma Leydesdorff, Mary Chamberlain and Leyla Neyzi (eds)

Where Memory Dwells: Culture and State Violence in Chile
Author(s): Macarena Gómez-Barris

Researching Social Change
Author(s): Julie McLeod and Rachel Thomson

RecordingCulture: Audio Documentary and the Ethnographic Experience
Author(s): Daniel Makagon and Mark Neuman

Paradoxes of Social Capital: A Multi-generational Study of Moroccans in London
Author(s): Myriam Cherti

For Their Own Good: The Transformation of English Working-Class Health Culture, 1880-1970
Author(s): Lucinda McCray Beier

A Matter of Life and death: Conversation with Pathologists
Author(s): Sue Armstrong

People and their Pasts: Public History Today
Author(s): Paul Ashton and Hilda Kean (eds)

Return to Akenfield
Author(s): Naomi Jones (director)