Hickory, NC – Hickory Museum of Art’s exhibition “How Creativity Happens (#seeinglight)” is a unique exploration into the creative process, representing the importance of collaboration and experimentation as promoters of innovation. It all began with a conversation of “What if?” that sparked a stream of collaboration and creative thinking between Hickory Museum of Art, Corning Optical Communications, and Fanjoy Labrenz. Two years later, that conversation has evolved into an educational, ground-breaking exhibition opening on Saturday, September 7, 2019.

A cross-disciplinary group of artists, creatives, and subject matter experts, led by local artists Sally Fanjoy and James Labrenz, are collaborating to create an innovative work of art. Along with Fanjoy Labrenz, the core group of artists includes: Michael Deckard, Carmella Jarvi, Claire Pope, and Hunter Speagle. Project leaders Fanjoy Labrenz commented, “Along with this amazing group of artists, we are immersing ourselves in this process with open minds and indulging ourselves with fantastical ideas. We are listening to and learning from each other as we explore the properties of glass and of light as it falls, reflects, transmits, connects, and transforms. It’s at once complicated and beautiful. We expect the artwork that emerges will be just as compelling.” Important STEAM topics including problem-framing, observation, prototyping, and concept evaluation take center stage as the team races the clock, while working together to find creative and innovative solutions. The resulting artwork will be loaned to Corning Optical Communications for display at their new corporate headquarters in Charlotte, NC. The Seeing Light team of artists expressed, “We’re all very thankful to the Corning Incorporated Foundation and Hickory Museum of Art for allowing artists the time and space for collaboration, experimentation, and creation.”

The exhibition will not only engage visitors in immersive learning about creativity, but also position Catawba County as a beacon for new ideas, bold arts, and cultural programming through the development of a radically innovative educational initiative that pushes the boundaries of what an exhibition can be. Typically, art museums present “finished products” during an opening night celebration. However, the evolution of the project will allow audiences to experience the entire scope of the creative process. Viewers will observe trial and error, practical learning, conflict resolution, and all that goes into the development of great art. From whiteboard sketches and prototypes to witnessing and participating in the collaborative team’s dialogue, audiences are invited to incorporate their ideas through exhibition feedback stations and social media.

The Coe Gallery will be transformed into a working lab as the entire process is documented by the artists, creating a living curriculum, which will be released in installments in the gallery. This documentary curriculum will focus on how cross-disciplinary teams can work and blend individual talents to challenge old concepts and create new work. These resources will also be supplemented by the development of classroom materials and professional development tools for area educators, creating the opportunity for students to potentially take part in their own mini projects to develop and document their own creative processes.

“The soft skills and collaborative mindsets that the exhibition teaches about have opened timely and relevant opportunities for HMA to partner with area schools,” said Hickory Museum of Art’s Executive Director Jon Carfagno. Partnering with K64, Hickory Public School’s central office team, and the art program at Grandview Middle School, a curriculum is being launched that will engage every sixth grade student in the district in hands-on, experiential learning created specifically for the show. The materials and resources will also be utilized as problem solving and critical thinking among incarcerated students at Alexander County Juvenile Detention Center through integration with the museum’s “Art for All” program by the museum’s Education Department during their monthly visits to the campus. This longstanding cornerstone of the museum’s social impact mission brings art education, creative skills development, and opportunities for expression to historically underserved audiences across the Unifour region. Comprehensively, “Art for All” will expose upwards of 4,000 at risk students from a wide array of area schools and nonprofits to this program.

A series of events will surround and enhance the exhibit experience. In conjunction with HMA’s Seventh Annual Autolawn Euro Car Show on Saturday, September 7, guests are invited to participate in guided tours of exhibitions “How Creativity Happens” and “The Art of Adventure” with teamHMA members Jon Carfagno, Clarissa Starnes, and Kristina Anthony. Normally reserved for members only, but in honor of Autolawn, these tours are open to the public at 10:30 AM and 11:30 AM. The final work of art will be unveiled in mid-November. The exhibition will be on view from Saturday, September 7, 2019 through Sunday, January 5, 2020.

Innovation demands the ability to build solid solutions to increasingly complex problems. With the “How Creativity Happens” exhibition, HMA strives to meet that need through experiences that teach how collaboration, a growth-oriented mindset, and willingness to experiment are key characteristics of the innovator’s toolkit. The entire process from concept to completion, as well as the finished work of art, promotes HMA’s mission to bring people together and inspire creativity through the power of art. This exhibition is sponsored by the Corning Incorporated Foundation, Corning Optical Communications, and annual sponsor Alex Lee. Collaborative work environments provided by Cabot Wrenn. Support for the “Art for All” program is provided by the L. B. Lane Family Foundation.

Photo: Caption: (L to R): Hunter Speagle, Carmella Jarvi, Claire Pope, Sally Fanjoy, James Labrenz, and Michael Deckard.