Making Creativity Visible

Making Creativity Visible (MCV) is an initiative of the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) in Columbus, Ohio, funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museums for America grant. MCV grew out of an interest at CMA to collaborate with teachers to explore what creativity looks like, feels like, and sounds like in order to better advocate for its importance in the 21st century. In this initiative, through documentation and collaboration, we investigated the driving questions of the initiative:

  • What does creativity look like, feel like, and sound like in PreK-12 learning?
  • What are the dispositions of creativity? What are the conditions in which creativity thrives?
  • How can we support the dispositions and conditions that foster creativity in learning?

Through this collaborative exploration, the MCV team identified practices that support creativity, prototyping and piloting tools to spread these strategies to other classrooms.  Through this experience, CMA provided hundreds of hours of workshops and presentations to thousands of educators from around the world, exploring what creativity can look like in learning, and building teachers’ capacities to foster creative thinking in themselves and others.

The Core Team of Making Creativity Visible

The core MCV team comprises Cindy Foley, Executive Deputy Director for Learning and Experience at CMA, Jennifer Lehe, Manager of Strategic Partnerships (CMA), and Maddie Armitage, Documentation Specialist (CMA). Dr. Fred Burton, Assistant Professor of Education at Ashland University, served as Consulting Director of Making Creativity Visible. The Learning and Engagement teams at CMA advanced this initiative through experimentation and documentation to foster creativity in programming and for the experience of visitors at the Columbus Museum of Art.  Key players include Maureen Carroll, Amanda Kepner, Caitlin Lynch, Merilee Mostov, Stephanie Samera, Molly Uline-Olmstead, and Michael Voll.  The original vision for the Making Creativity Visible initiative was set by Rachel Trinkley (now of the National Gallery of Art) and Jessimi Jones (now of the Philbrook Museum of Art).  A collaborative experiment of this scope would not have been possible without the extraordinary leadership of Nannette V. Maciejunes, Executive Director of the Columbus Museum of Art.

The leadership and vision of the Core Teacher Team provided endless insights for the MCV team. The incredibly generous teachers of the Core Teacher Team dedicated invaluable time and creative energy to sharing strategies, success and failures – testing out and documenting their learners’ processes and their own.


Core Teacher Team and Leaders for Creativity fellows, left to right, Becky Coyne, Emily Reiser, Patrick Callicotte, Jason Blair, Britanie Risner, Matt Szozda, Maddie Armitage (documentation specialist), and Marcella Cua

These teachers are students of their own practice, and the CMA Learning Department has benefited enormously from their intellectual contributions to MCV.  The key teacher advisors of MCV include

  • Jason Blair, art teacher at Eli Pinney Elementary, Dublin City Schools;*
  • Patrick Callicotte, art teacher at Chapman Elementary, Dublin City Schools;*
  • Becky Coyne, art teacher at Forest Park Elementary, Columbus City Schools;*
  • Marcella Cua, computer graphics teacher at Briggs High School, Columbus City Schools;*
  • Emily Reiser, art teacher at Montrose Elementary, Bexley City Schools;*
  • Britanie Risner, fourth grade classroom teacher at Hoffman Trails Elementary, Hilliard City Schools;*
  • Matt Szozda, art teacher at Cline Elementary, Centerville City Schools;*
  • Molly Hinkle, fourth grade classroom teacher at Barrington Elementary, Upper Arlington City Schools;
  • Katrina Kudart, second grade classroom teacher at Eli Pinney Elementary, Dublin City Schools;
  • Jennifer Argo, second grade classroom teacher at Eli Pinney Elementary, Dublin City Schools;
  • Sabrina Walters, fourth grade classroom teacher at Wickliffe Elementary, Upper Arlington City Schools;
  • Amanda Walzak, history teacher at the Arts and College Preparatory Academy, Columbus Public Charter School
*Demarcated teachers comprised the inaugural cohort of the Leaders for Creativity Fellowship, funded by the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation.

These teachers opened their classrooms for experimentation and documentation, developed and piloted tools, facilitated workshops, and thought together with CMA leaders to steer the initiative. The resources developed through this initiative could not have existed without the documentation captured from these classrooms and the insights of these imaginative, reflective practitioners.

Key Advisors, Thought Partners, and Critical Friends

The work of MCV would not have been possible without the leadership and collaboration of many individuals.

The approaches of MCV come from the work of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in particular PZ’s work around Making Learning Visible.  High-level guidance was provided by Project Zero researchers Mara Krechevsky and Melissa Rivard, who led workshops at CMA’s Teaching for Creativity Institute, advised the direction of teacher engagement, and helped the MCV team to shape documentation to be disseminated to a larger audience. Many dog-eared copies of their excellent book, Visible Learners, co-authored with Ben Mardell and Daniel Wilson, can be found throughout the CMA Learning Department offices.

Additional thanks goes to PZ thought partners Flossie Chua and Steve Seidel. Additional inspiration came from Project Zero Classroom faculty and school-based educators Terry Thomas and Todd Elkin. Sean Foley provides on-going provocation and inspiration around wonder and awe.  Ohio Department of Education Fine Arts Consultant Nancy Pistone was integral to vision-setting, particularly around assessment in the arts.  Important support in evaluative thinking was provided by Jeanine Ancelet and Dr. Jessica Luke of Audience Focus.

Over the course of MCV, the CMA Learning team collaborated with and learned from over 150 teachers and administrators through the Teaching for Creativity Institute, generously supported by the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation – whose director Dan Keenan is a crucial, on-going thought-partner to the CMA. The MCV team extends appreciation for these educators’ brave investigations, eager experimentation, and generosity in making learning visible. The MCV team thanks these educators, the administrators who signaled their support of creativity by committing resources, and the presenters and facilitators who guided the groups’ learning.  Special thanks goes to Kimberly Pietsch Miller and Dr. Todd Hoadley for their uniquely-sustained commitment to the CMA’s role in cultivating creativity in classrooms. Melissa Higgins-Linder provided invaluable insights into Teaching for Creativity through her case study and analysis.

Teaching for Creativity Institute educators participating in a challenge and reflecting on their thinking

Finally, IMLS funding for the Making Creativity Visible initiative supported CMA’s 2016 Creativity Summit, a convening that brought together more than 700 professionals from across sectors to explore how they can catalyze creativity within their spheres of influence.  The Creativity Summit featured a keynote presentation by Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators and Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era; a performance and creativity Q+A with Tig Notaro, comedian; workshops with Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question; Dr. Melissa Crum, Founder and Principal Consultant, Mosaic Education Network, LLC; Katherine Prince, Senior Director of Strategic Foresight, KnowledgeWorks; Stephanie Rond, artist, co-founder of Creative Arts of Women (CAW) and Columbus Open Studio and Stage; Dr. David J. Staley, associate professor of history and design at the Ohio State University; and a panel on making space for creativity, featuring Kyle Ezell; Artie Issacs; Liz Sanders; Ira Sharfin; Marshall Shorts; Tom Walker; and Amy M. Youngs; and a response panel discussing the implications of the innovation era on education systems, moderated by Dr. Daniel Keenan, Jr., Director of the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, and featuring Dr. Kathy Krendl, President of Otterbein University, Dr. Trent Bowers, Superintendent of Worthington City Schools, and Dr. Todd Hoadley, Superintendent of Dublin City Schools.

Participants at the 2016 CMA Creativity Summit (left) designing an ideal learning environment and (right) engaging in a participatory workshop with Warren Berger