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Creativity at the Forefront

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Simón Silva is known internationally for his colorful, intimate and emotion-charged paintings. From the cover of Time Magazine to permanent exhibits around the world, his is a story of remarkable triumph over adversity. Born in Mexicali in 1961, Simón moved with his family to the Imperial Valley when he was one year old. Throughout childhood, his education was repeatedly interrupted by his migrant family’s need to follow the harvests from the Imperial Valley to Oregon and Washington. Simón realized from these difficult early years that education was essential to building a better future, and it was his passion for art and reading that kept him in school, and inspired his lifelong love for learning.

Simón Silva, creativity consultant, artist, author, and lecturer.

For all of Simón’s remarkable achievements as a world renowned artist, this is not the sole recognition that defines him today. Building from the confidence which he gained from his artistic success, Simon has evolved into a powerhouse of creativity, as an accomplished author, consultant and keynote speaker.

Simón believes that creativity is integral to virtually every successful career, and that nothing is more important when it comes to preparing students for the challenges they will be facing in the 21st century. He is not alone in his advocacy, as a recent survey reports that teachers overwhelmingly endorse greater inclusion of creative exercises within their classrooms.

Considering the vast amount of evidence supporting the vital role that creativity plays in both personal and career success, we must ask ourselves why the subject receives so little attention in many schools. In fact, little has changed since 1950, when the distinguished psychologist, J. P. Guiford, stated in his inaugural address as president of the American Psychological Association that “education’s neglect of the subject of creativity is appalling”.

The dialogue surrounding this topic is heating up, with the world’s leading experts calling for a transformation in the way we teach. In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson gave his now-famous TED Talk entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” He obviously has touched the pulse of America, as this has become the most popular video ever presented on TED, and is now surpassing 50 million views. (Watch Ken's talk here)

Myths surrounding creativity

For over 14 years, the Rainforest Art Project at the San Diego Zoo has been providing inspirational and healing art for young cancer victims and their families. Children eagerly reach for their art supplies when they are being distributed, while many adults tell the instructor that they are not interested, because they have no talent or creativity. When we remind them how important this activity is for their children, they reluctantly take the drawing board, and with a little kind encouragement, they begin to demonstrate remarkable hidden skills, becoming as eager as their kids for their next art experience. Creativity is the birthright of every child, and it often takes a personal tragedy to inspire adults to return to their youth and retrieve this precious asset.

Not only does every child possess an abundance of creativity, it is now proven that through exercising and nurturing this talent, we can continue to develop and grow our CQ (Creativity Quotient) throughout our lifetimes. Unfortunately, if we do not provide creative enrichment, this precious gift will wither into self-doubt and join the sad legions of lost possibilities.

Rainforest Art Project students flex their creative muscle.

Partnerships for Creativity

In 2012, Dr. Robert Pletka, then superintendent of El Centro Elementary School District, began collaborating with the Rainforest Art Project to develop an innovative video art program to bring creative exercises into classrooms throughout the district. The plan proved so effective that it received a grant from the Burnham Foundation to expand into districts throughout Southern California.

“Our office is excited to work with the Rainforest Art Project. Their entire team is passionate about encouraging the Arts and creativity in our schools, and we feel so fortunate to be working in partnership. They have developed engaging, high-quality curriculum that belongs in every classroom.”

- Dr Todd Finnell, County Superintendent of Schools.

Over the past year, The Rainforest Art Project has been working closely with the Imperial County Office of Education to take this program to a whole new level. New Connections Art Program (NCAP) curriculum uses rich online resources, digital media, and high-quality, hands-on activities to bring an appreciation for and greater understanding of the Arts for our students. Developed with a deep understanding of the demands placed on today’s classroom teacher, all materials and resources are prepared and packaged for any teacher — regardless of comfort with art themselves — to immediately implement in their classroom.

The winds of change

The voices of people like Sir Ken Robinson and Simón Silva are being listened to with growing eagerness, as we come to a greater appreciation for the critical role that innovation and creativity will play for the success and happiness of today’s students. The world is crying out for creative solutions to an ever-increasing list of complex problems, and we must not hesitate to provide children with the confidence and skills they will require to take on these enormous challenges.


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