Guest Post- Thoughts on the creative power inherent in collaboration by Jason Andrew

We are really excited to share a piece by Jason Andrew who will be speaking at our DELVE Networking event tonight at Tiger Strikes Astroid.  Jason is an independent scholar, curator, and producer, and a prominent figure in the Bushwick, Brooklyn art scene. Below Jason writes about how crucial collaboration is for creative endeavors, and we couldn't agree more. Check it out!


Creativity can’t be planned. Creativity can’t be improvised. Creativity is about harnessing spontaneity and only achieved through trial and error.

Committed to encouraging, promoting, and supporting collaborations in the arts, this year Norte Maar celebrates 10 years. (Choreographer Julia kK. Gleich with artist Andrew Hurst and dancers, Camp Pocket U, Rouses Point Elementary School, Rouses Point, NY, 2010. Photo: Lars Kremer)

Committed to encouraging, promoting, and supporting collaborations in the arts, this year Norte Maar celebrates 10 years. (Choreographer Julia kK. Gleich with artist Andrew Hurst and dancers, Camp Pocket U, Rouses Point Elementary School, Rouses Point, NY, 2010. Photo: Lars Kremer)

One can create environments for spontaneity in which creativity can flourish, but no one can predict the date and time of the next big idea. I like to think that big ideas are happening all over Bushwick, but it takes an inventive and patient artist to be attuned to it.

Great ideas don’t result from a single conversation; their historic emergence follow the same process as an improvised conversation—with small sparks gathering together over time, multiple dead ends, and the reinterpretation of previous ideas. All great innovations result from an invisible collaborative web. And the most effective collaborations are improvised (of course this is my subjective point of view).

Innovation is what drives today’s economy. I’m not saying that there is much innovation currently in the art world. But innovation drives my hopes for the future—as individuals and organizations.

We rely on creative solutions to pressing problems and, to many, the individual mind is the ultimate source of creativity.

I happen to subscribe to a slightly different perspective, believing that it is the creative power inherent in multi-disciplinary collaboration that leads to the ultimate source of creativity.

I argue that collaboration is the very nature of our mind. Researchers have discovered that the mind itself is filled with a kind of internal collaboration. Those creative insights that emerge when you’re completely alone, in the studio or at your worktable, can be traced to memories and experiences. They evolve from an internal conversation with some external source: a person, place, or thing. The more diverse the memory, the more potent the creative insight.

In the real world of earth-shattering innovation, Keith Sawyer author of Group Genius and the power of Collaboration writes, that “most of what we’ve heard about famous inventions is wrong, because it’s based on the myth of the lone genius.” He argues that the real stories behind famous inventions like the telegraph, the light bulb, and the airplane were not the result of a lone genius. Forget the myths about historical inventors; the truth is always a story of group genius. Today’s innovations emerge from ever more complex organizations and many interacting teams. Even the Lone Ranger had a “team.”

I am certainly not arguing against the creative genius of the individual. I’m implying that the creativity is most potent in the collaborative process.

10 years ago I co-founded Norte Maar with the choreographer Julia K. Gleich. It was founded as a way to describe the cross-disciplinary projects I was encouraging, promoting, and supporting, among the vast number of visual artists, poets, writers, composers, choreographers and directors I was presenting.

Norte Maar originated from humble beginnings: an empty ice skating rink in the rural village of Rouses Point, NY. Collaborating with the local historical society, Norte Maar built a stage, rented a ballet floor and produced an evening of dance featuring international, regional, and local dance companies. Local children made the sets and for many, it was the first time they witnessed a ballet. Our summer dance conservatory featured established instructors and offered the young aspiring rural dancers access to a world-class experience. In Rouses Point we built a summer creative nexus that exploded into year-round programming, which in 2006 found footing in the very transitional neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Recognizing the creative potential among a large, but rather insular group of neighborhood artists I began hosting regular exhibitions, installations, and performance events in the apartment.

This led to a bi-annual Beat Nite. Beat Nite highlighted the young alternative gallery scene and marketed it in such a way as to grant the public access to one of the newest creative neighborhoods in New York. (Beat Nite originally featured just 7 spaces). Beat Nite served to not only grant public access to anti reveal an otherwise invisible part of the art world, but created a network of colleagues strengthening Bushwick’s creative web with Norte Maar at the center.

An aspect of Norte Maar’s programming which still remains unique among the sea of arts organizations in this city is its cross-disciplinary philosophy connecting visual artists, poets, writers, composers, choreographers, and directors with each other. I’m never more proud to see at my art openings the faces of dancers, and at my performances, the faces of artists.

Today, Norte Maar has come to define much of my very existence. I believe Norte Maar has played a singular role in establishing Bushwick as one of the most diverse and creative places in the art world. (That and the cheap rent we all used to enjoy!) There isn’t room in my philosophy for vanity. I’m not worried about who gets credit or who came first. When everyone genuinely collaborates, everyone ends up being more creative.

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