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Harnessing the wind

Tacoma comes together to discuss creativity

Screen shot of Rusty George off his Rusty George Design website

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What is creativity? Why are there people like Leonardo Da Vinci, and then people like that dude in the apartment downstairs who spends his days picking lint out of his belly button?

May 1 at 2 p.m., a panel of Tacoma artists aims to answer this question as part of Tacoma Reads Together.

Wait, Tacoma reads together, you ask? Tacoma reads at all? Yes, it does indeed, and not just Facebook pages. Tacoma Reads Together is in its ninth year and was born out of a similar project spawned in Seattle. This year, Tacoma is reading The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, a story about a boy in Malawi who started with virtually nothing and built a windmill that brought power to his village, going on to get a prestigious college education in the US.

The lineup for Sunday's panel discussion includes Rusty George of Rusty George Design; Kate Monthly, Artistic Director of MLK Ballet; local singer and musician Vicci Martinez; and Tom Llewellyn, author of The Titling House and part of local street art group Beautiful Angle. Rosemary Ponnekanti, arts writer and critic for the News Tribune, will moderate the group.

And why these people? What do they got that you don't?

Well, maybe nothing if you're already a rock star, but they are all working artists with unique perspectives on what makes creative minds tick. This event is interactive, too-you can pipe in with your own thoughts about creativity, or challenge those on the panel.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind will serve as a touchstone throughout the discussion, as the story is about a boy who was creative in a crazy kind of way-for base survival rather than for expression.

Llewellen adds, "I think more often than not, creativity is needs driven. Even in the most esoteric sense, someone needs to feed their soul, or in the most practical sense that someone needs to feed their belly. I think creativity is meaningless unless it's aimed at something, and it could be aimed at practically anything."

Rusty George Design focuses on helping clients with creative branding, logos and marketing. "I think I will bring my perspective of creativity as a skill that is not replaceable nor susceptible to outsourcing or automation in the market place," says George.

And his take on why people are creative? "I see people continually having to adapt to new concepts and technologies which allow them to push their thinking and problem solving," he says.

In addition to founding MLK Ballet, Kate Monthly dances on the side and has her own dance company. Her creative world focuses on interactive visuals in a way that design or the written word does not.

"I think experience allows us to be creative," she says, "so I think anyone has the potential to be creative. It's about practice-daily practice about thinking differently."

What will she bring to the table? "I hope to offer the feminist perspective. Regardless of if we want to say there's a difference, I think there's a difference in how men and women can think sometimes. I think also communicating with dance is difficult because there aren't words and there's a story the audience is following-I hope to bring that perspective. Each art has a difficulty communicating to the audience - its own hurdle."

Count on creativity encapsulated in ways you may not have pondered-ways that may empower you to be creative even if you think you aren't.

"I'm a believer that anything is learned, including creativity," says Llewellen. "We tend to put these constraints on what is creative and what is not, like if someone is a visual artist or a musician or dancer, they're creative. If someone is a computer programmer or an accountant, they're not. I think that's complete bullshit."

Creativity. What A Concept!

A Community Conversation

Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m.

Main Library, Tacoma

Olympic Room

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