The solution was simple; the team decided on a topic for their lesson and then divided the work into separate packages. The topic would be “Communication,” a suitable yet complex test. Girard would produce the traditional exhibition materials, the kind of large poster displays one usually finds in a museum or expo. The displays would complement the one hour multimedia demonstration that Nelson and Eames would share half an hour for each. Nelson would produce a series of triptych slide shows in New York, while in L.A. the Eameses compiled their own slide show and both would produce some original film segments. All the narration would be pre-recorded on reel-to-reel tape, and the show would be timed and planned down to the second.
In 1952, the University of Georgia’s primary goal for their art department was providing education in creativity to the whole University. The secondary goal was improving visual literacy in the general public. To accomplish these goals the staff of the art school would define research and creativity for themselves.
In practical terms this would mean instructors treating their lessons and classes as research. Erwin Breithaupt published a rationale for their strategies in his work coauthored with Rubin Gotesky, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, which explains the many uses of the word creativity.
Breithaupt claims, “Creativity is used to characterize: a. a person b. a process c. an activity d. a product or e. all of these indiscriminately bundled together. Yet when applied to any of these, the meaning is different.”
He then goes on to explain the complex nuances of each of these uses. Later Breithaupt would go on to document UGA’s art lessons in an piece called, The Basic Art Course at Georgia for the College Arts Journal.
An extension of the Basic Freshman art program was planned for the sophomores next year.
“This will involve the contents of three courses, Art 121, 211, 221, which will be completely reordered along the technical lines used in the freshman year. The faculty is in agreement that much has been accomplished in speeding up the learning process in the students’ experiences and the new freshman program has been sufficiently successful to project the teaching methods used in the work of the second year.”
The meaning of research is special in a University setting; it covers a broad spectrum of activities. From a bureaucratic stand point there is an empirical standard, based on the number of products produced. The types of products accepted as research include: lectures, essays, books, inventions, and discoveries. Breithaupt recognized that his work and that of his colleagues combined any number of these products.
A year later, the implementation of the plan was in effect. The greatest improvement was the integration of Freshman course requirements, Art 20 (Drawing), Art 30 (Design), and Art 40 (Nature and Materials) into an interrelated continuum.
The word creativity often suggests something spontaneous in common usage, but in this University setting it often meant, steady testing of all possibilities, it ofen means secrecy, it meant experimenting as long as the experimenting results in something useful. In meaningful ways, experimentation and play were synonymous.
The art school was the center of creative play for the whole University, constructive skills were learned which lead to mature decision making. Along with this process there was an acceptance of risk, physical discomfort, and even danger.
As a result of their new lessons, students chose to exhibit their work less, show all work democratically, and compete without interest in medals or prizes. The Annual Report explains:
“Instead they have put more emphasis upon the creative act, which is process rather than end-product centered. Reasons for their de-emphasis on exhibiting their work may be found in the new library and its art reference material available to them so that they developed an expanded realization of quality work. Another reason may be found in the new basic program in art, which influence has begun to be felt by the upper-classmen.”
Another definition of creativity emerges in Breithaupt’s writing, that alternative methods, less efficient methods of accomplishing tasks are, actually, creative.
If productivity is a measure of success, it seems confusing that redundant or less efficient methods should be pursued. The explanation of why this contradiction is actually so, is simple:
Alternative methods are useful when the accepted manner of doing things is unavailable. In the instance of the Basic Art Courses, Breithaupt demonstrated that a combination of self-recorded tapes played with an automatic slide projector suitably reproduced the effect of a more expensive 35 mm film production for the purposes of their lessons.
There is another reason for exploring alternative methods: sometimes they result in unexpected discoveries. For students in class this sometimes meant developing a new pattern for their fabric designs or compositions for their drafting project, but for the instructors this meant embracing the qualities of their tools.
For the Basic Art Courses using examples of artists such as Corot and Picasso was necessary, and by using slide projectors they could produce more accurate colors than would be possible with commercial film. As an added benefit, the slide projectors would allow the instructors to adjust the lessons from day to day with greater flexibility.
These creatively synthesized lectures, which combined slides presentations, sculpture, and even ophthalmology, proved a viable way to teach art students, yet they were also approved by instructors of Religion, Physics, Economics, who all saw parallels in the way they presented complex concepts.
One of the most elusive concepts of creativity involves the uniqueness of technique. In a practical example, as long as a business retains their unique patent, they can claim a superior level of creativity in their company. In this way, creativity is born out of innovation, but is also maintained through exclusivity, (secret methods).
In this way, UGA’s specialized techniques were creative by their own definition; they were able to claim this distinction for at least twenty years.
Research in the art school took shape in the basic art courses, Art 20, 30, 40 into the freshman curriculum. The research was done by Breithaupt and Wescott preparing the work of “preparing illustrative materials (slides, movies) writing and recording scripts, and assembly of integrated audio-visual lectures. Others of the staff joined in the project as it related to the particular areas of concentration.
In 1953 Lamar Dodd presented a lecture called, “Research and Creativity,” to the Southern University Conference in Edgewater Park, Mississippi.
Dodd greeted his audience on behalf of the President of UGA, and the Dean of the Graduate School and Director of Research. This is crucial to revealing the nature of the department, this nature is defined by its relation to the very heads of the University.
Dodd started,“If someone were to ask me what my professional interests were in life, I would answer, “teaching and painting:,” or vice-versa.”
He explained that funds were inadequate, but there was a a hope for greater state support.
Dodd believed that the experience gathered from their curriculum development was dealing primarily with the visual arts, but that his remarks were applicable to the other fine arts, architecture, drama, music, and literature.
Dodd made the claim that scientist do research, the best of which is creative. Furthermore, the scientist is an reversed artist, artists are creative first then do research. Science cannot happen without a laboratory to confirm facts (empirical evidence) and creative experimentation.
“Personally, I do not believe that Art Appreciation or Art History can be taught successfully without the laboratory experience as it can be when students are allowed to participate in a creative activity.”
President Aderhold asked Dodd to describe the experiment in creativity the University was conducting within its art program. “We are very much concerned with making art play its proper role in program of the College of Arts and Sciences.”
Two famous designers, both nationally and internationally known, George Nelson and Charles Eames were invited to share their rich experiences for both students and staff. There invitation was arranged in order for them to help in the development of the program. The staff is engaged creative work the result of creative thinking.
The proposal developed by the advisory committee in conjunction with the faculty of the department, was a large scale experiment. Dodd believed that If the faculty of the art department put their plans on paper, it would never have happened. The design committee would never have agreed if they knew what they were agreeing to.
Horizons broadened and broadened as the research commenced.
“Alexander Girard in Michigan, collected a wealth of material which would be use for a display and exhibition. Charles Eames, in California, photographed material day and night, making tape recordings from records, machines, and every conceivable type of sounds, and George Nelson in New York, selecting and compiling slides from thousands which he had made during a recent trip to Europe—making hundreds of other slides the specific purpose—making a color movie-making recordings. At one point, CBS Studios, realizing the significance of this type of educational experimentation, turned over their facilities to Nelson. In March of this year, these men came to Athens, loaded with projectors, wire recorders, film strips, slides, and other paraphernalia, prepared to assemble their experimental demonstration, which was to deal with teaching.”
Dodd emphasized (like Eames) that this demonstration was not a “show,” not for entertainment. This was a an effort to make the best possible method of presenting significant material. (This presenation is discussed in great detail later in this document.):
One student was cited as saying of the Art X experience, “The lecture on film provides such a wealth of example, of experience, and of freedom from the iron triangle of teacher-blackboard-pupil than the more advanced student could not help but look forward to classes.”
“In my opinion, the new teaching aid is one of the most exciting thing(s) I have seen, heard, and smelled in many years”.
Dodd gave his personal opinion of what Nelson and Eames presented in Athens, Georgia early that year:
“It seems to me that the time is ripe for thinking of this type….I thought it was very good—imaginative conception, resourceful in technique, always interesting, and frequently exciting. I was impressed by the fact that the subject matter material was not new—most of us, I am sure, had encountered those facts at one time or another—but the relationships which were pointed out were often new and supplied me, at least, with new and deeper insight into the field of art and design… The pieces fell into place much better after I had seen their show a second time and particularly after I had an opportunity to think about it a bit…This exhibition demonstrated for me that outstanding minds with good ideas can do wonders with this medium… The possibilities are exciting and staggering...The market value of all the resources used in the production of the experiment, which were largely donated, including a contribution by the Columbia Broadcasting Company would have been “in the neighborhood of $35,000 to $40,000.”
They immediately realize that no institution in this region, and, in fact, few institutions, could afford so large a sum of money to put on any one-hour demonstration for teaching. However, Nelson hoped that they might pool resources between various schools and perhaps win another large grant from the federal government. (These have yet to be accomplished.)
Still, Dodd imagined, "If a 15-20 hour course could be reduced to one hour, let us think for a moment of the potentialities...The reduced time in background information, can now be used towards experimentation with various media, using the stimulating experiences of the past. It would make the library function as it should function. It encourages the word discipline in every sense of the word. It will bring about practical applications of culture to the life of today.”
“Today we witness an interest in art that has not been apparent since the Renaissance, and as colleges and universities throughout the country express more interest in the visual arts than they have at any time in the histories, we in this field realize the responsibility of presenting this significant subject in the most effective possible manner.”