Cynthia lives in Philadelphia and has embraced her creative life, recently earning her PhD in Creativity from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Her dissertation was on Ecological Artists changing Consciousness about Climate issues. She now works as an Adjunct Professor in that program, curates museum shows, is involved with climate policy, and creates her own art work.
H: PLEASE BRIEFLY DISCUSS YOUR CHILDHOOD/FORMATIVE YEARS AS THEY RELATE TO YOUR DEVELOPMENT AS A CREATIVE ADULT.
C: I was fortunate, my parents encouraged me to learn and develop skills in dance, painting, and piano. My grandmother took me to the Philadelphia Orchestra. My father introduced me to opera, and I had the opportunity to sing in the children’s chorus in La Boheme when I was eleven years old. I acted in a few school plays, and a competition at a local professional theater. Those experiences instilled a love of performing arts that has stayed with me my whole life. I enjoyed being in my high-school’s speech and debate club. We went to national competition twice. As a teenager I found a summer volunteer job at the State Museum of New Jersey. That was the unofficial beginning of my decades-long museum work experience.
H: YOUR BACKGROUND IS UNIQUE IN THAT YOU HAVE A PhD IN CREATIVITY, WITH A FOCUS ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES. PLEASE DISCUSS HOW YOUR EDUCATION AND TRAINING RELATES TO YOUR PERSONAL CREATIVITY.
C: Creativity was just a natural mode for me since childhood though I wouldn’t have labeled it as such. Raised in suburbia in a traditional family, I always found outlets that transcended the normative model. For example, as a teen in the 1970s, I took yoga, and organized the first bottle recycling drive in my high school. When it came to selecting a college, I knew I needed both strong academics and an art program, with easy access to fine and performing arts. Living in Washington, D.C. during college and afterwards opened my eyes to the intersectionality of politics, arts, and public service.
H: PLEASE TALK ABOUT INSPIRATION AND PRACTICES THAT ENHANCE OR INFLUENCE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS.
C: I worked in art museums for many years and was inspired by tremendously talented and brilliant people. These included curators, educators, and exhibit designers. And of course the art that was installed there was a regular source of wonder and intellectual engagement.
As for environmental advocacy, my volunteer job at the Clean Air Council in Philadelphia introduced me to a group of dedicated people who use legal/political/social paths to generate a greener, safer future. My niche there was to write opinion letters to newspaper editors about the most pressing environmental topic of the week. I guess you could say that writing those letters and getting them published was a weekly act of creativity.
H: HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED “CREATIVE BLOCK”? IF SO, WHAT FORM DOES IT TAKE? HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT?
C: I can’t remember being “creatively blocked” for any length of time. If I have an inspiration, or a goal, or a job to do, I simply sit down and begin writing, or sketch, or pick up the phone, or network with someone with whom I can share good ideas.
H: DO YOU HAVE GUIDING “MOTTOS” OR LIFE PHILOSOPHIES THAT HAVE IMPACTED YOUR APPROACH TO YOUR WORK?
C: Yes, a few.
1. The opportunity you desire may not come at the time or place that you envision, but it will eventually happen, if only through the side or back door.
2. Coincidences or chance meetings with certain people mean something significant. See where they lead.
3. Work by collaboration. The combination of personalities, skills, and intentions leads to a better product.
4. Follow your gut instincts about who to network with and take the plunge.
5. Rejection is part of life. Focus on the achievements and move forward.
H: WHAT PERSONAL QUALITIES DO YOU HAVE THAT HAVE HELPED YOU ACHIEVE YOUR CREATIVE GOALS? ARE YOU AN INTROVERT OR AN EXTROVERT?
C: When it comes to creative goals, I do not hesitate to reach out to strangers, especially if we have a common professional mission. There’s something about an arts or an environmental advocacy background that binds people together. I am comfortable speaking in the public sphere so no one would guess I’m an introvert socially. I shun large social gatherings, preferring to spend my free time with one or two special friends.
H: WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CREATIVE CHALLENGES AND HOW DID YOU DEAL WITH THEM?
C: As a fine arts undergrad I developed the skills to copy old master paintings and draw realistically from a model. But I didn’t feel particularly creative or original. So I switched my major to art history. Problem solved! Curating art exhibitions is akin to putting jigsaw puzzles together. I need everyone’s cooperation in a timely manner—artists, gallery directors, art handlers, graphic designers. For the most part I’ve been fortunate in that regard.
The biggest challenge is to convince museum or gallery directors to host my exhibitions! If one says NO, I keep pushing in other directions. At this juncture, I’ve had one particular exhibition shown in an art center, a science center, and am planning for next year in a university setting.
H: WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIGGEST REWARDS?
C: Seeing my writing published in a magazine or academic publication, lecturing at a conference, curating an exhibition, interviewing artists for the Archives of American Art, jurying art shows, having my letters to the editor published, and completing a PHD as a senior citizen. One particular highlight was when I lectured to a group of about 100 art teachers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
H: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER PEOPLE INTERESTED IN DEVELOPING THEIR CREATIVE LIFE?
C: Follow your instincts. Try out a few different creative outlets in your free time. Don’t be intimidated by others. Go to museums, films, concerts, dance performances, public lectures.
Cynthia can be contacted for copies of her CV at: email@example.com
Please subscribe if you wish to receive notice of future blog posts.
2 thoughts on “Cynthia Haveson Veloric, PhD in Creativity; Art Historian, Environmental Advocate”
Very interesting article for a couple of reasons. First, I wasn’t aware of PhD programs in creativity. Second, Cynthia sounds like such an optimist who keeps moving things forward, despite any resistance. There’s a lot to learn from that!
I find her ability to pursue many avenues, and work with a variety of people in different fields, a tremendous skill.