A new interdisciplinary program at Western aims to broaden students’ awareness of the role creativity plays in the world, their communities, and as an essential job skill for the 21st century.
Creative arts and production (CAP) is a four-year program centered on three Cs — creativity, collaboration and community — and offered across three faculties: arts and humanities, information and media studies, and music.
The module responds to students’ expressed desire for learning opportunities that challenge them to think both critically and creatively.
“Students have been looking for ways to incorporate creativity into their studies,” said Jo Devereux, a professor in English and writing studies and interim director of the CAP program. “They enjoy the intellectual exploration of subjects, but so many of them also want to bring their creative talents to bear on their coursework, and in courses outside their home faculty. This program provides them with an integrated way to do that.”
The program comes just a year after the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, underscoring the increasing role creativity plays in addressing global challenges.
Registered in one of the three home faculties, CAP students will work toward a degree that integrates both theory and production from a broad range of elective courses within arts, media studies and music. The electives will be taught by experts, including Devereux from the faculty of arts and humanities, and Basil Chiasson and Sally Kewayosh from the faculty of information and media studies.
The course introduces students to critical ways of thinking about creativity and creative practice across a range of disciplines in the arts, music and media. Through collaboration and conversation, they explore what creativity looks like; where creativity comes from; who can be creative; and why creativity matters.
Together, we engage in a great deal of myth-busting. Is creativity innate? To what extent is it a matter of individual genius or reliance upon traditions and other networks? — Basil Chiasson, professor, faculty of information and media studies and the creative arts and production module
The program also incorporates and encourages diverse, inclusive perspectives.
“As our students start their adult lives, they’re concerned about a lot of social and political issues. We are looking at topics like decolonization and from areas such as gender studies to foster as much engagement as possible,” Devereux said. “We aim to bring diversity to the program not only through the subjects we study, but through the students and faculty we welcome.”
First- and second-year CAP courses have been running this past year ahead of the official launch of the degree in the fall.
The collaborative and conversation-based delivery of the introductory courses has been a welcome surprise to arts and humanities student Sara Luchak.
“It is just such an immersive and interesting learning environment, and one I wasn’t expecting to have in university,” the theatre major said. “Rather than the traditional way of a professor teaching the content, with students observing and learning from them, students are constantly learning from each other. It really gives you the opportunity to listen and have your own ideas be heard.”
Luchak plans on continuing with the program for the rest of her degree, noting the content applies to all students, regardless of their major.
The program is really opening my eyes to my own creative process, as we explore what creativity means within many industries and from different perspectives.- Sara Luchak, theatre and CAP student
Engaging the community
Devereux and her colleagues from FIMS and music will expand the course, as public health guidelines permit, to include workshops and a variety of interactive activities from members of the local arts community.
“We are working towards capstone courses where students will be paired with an arts professional, in film, theatre, visual arts or music, blending an academic and professional approach to their understanding of what it means to work in creative industries,” Devereux said.
Andrew Dodd, manager of Film London at the London Economic Development Corporation, is among the program’s potential community partners. He said the timing is right for engaging students in London’s vibrant arts community.
“With the Grand Theatre reopening and London receiving UNESCO’s designation of Canada’s first City of Music, the CAP program fits perfectly with our vision of establishing London as a cultural and creative hub,” Dodd said. “We are pleased to see Western further their support of the creative industries and look forward to helping graduates take advantage of new film, performance and media opportunities as the industry in London grows.”
Devereux looks forward to guiding the first cohort and watching them grow, too.
“We’re just facilitators, helping students do their best in their creative field,” she said. “I’m excited to see what happens as they become more confident in their ideas, their vision, and as they develop their talents and abilities to do creative work when they graduate. I keep envisioning how years later, these students will do amazing things.”