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Creative Spring Studio offers students an imaginative take on a typical classroom

Julia Brown | Mar 21, 2018

School of Visual Communication Professor Julie Elman talks to her students in the Creative Process class in the new Creative Spring Studio at Scripps Hall 106 on March 1, 2018. / Photo by Jorge Castillo Castro

Creative Spring Studio offers students an imaginative take on a typical classroom

By Julia Brown

ATHENS, Ohio (March 21, 2018)–A Råskog cart from IKEA full of art utensils; a “Make Art, Not War” poster by Shepard Fairey; a paint-by-number Mona Lisa. These are just a few of the items that are immediately visible when walking into the Creative Spring Studio on the first floor of Scripps Hall. At first glance, the space might look like the personal studio of an artist, but it actually serves as a classroom and workspace for students in the School of Visual Communication’s Creative Process class.

Professor Julie Elman helped to create the space after having what she calls an “ah-ha” moment. After visiting a colleague whose office was located in Scripps Hall, she realized that the building houses many innovative and creative spaces, like the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab and the Social Media Analytics Research Team (SMART) Lab. “There are already so many experimental spaces here,” Elman said. “Why not add another one?”

Elman’s initial idea was to create a place for “playing and doing stuff—a place to talk about the creative process.” She approached Dean Scott Titsworth with her idea last February, and he was on board from the start. Scripps Hall 106 was selected as the perfect location for the new studio and the new Creative Spring Studio was created.

“When it comes to “creative spaces,” I noted that many names were already taken,” said Elman when discussing the name of the studio. “The process of finding a name for the space felt very organic and intuitive. I had a sense, while brainstorming, that when the “right” name popped up, I’d recognize it. “Creative Spring Studio” made sense. To me, it felt like it spoke to process, being engaged, feeling renewed, being active.”

Next came the project of revitalizing the room to make it fit Elman’s needs.

“I’ve always been very aware of the light, color and placement of items in a room,” Elman explained. Her attention to detail is obvious upon first sight. You would never be able to guess that many of the pieces in the studio have been reused, recycled and repurposed from places like Donkey Coffee and Ohio University’s own surplus, including a teal hutch that has become the focal point of the main room of the studio. Often times, Elman found the pieces she needed in serendipitous ways—she would discover she needed a piece, and one would appear in her life.

For the first month that students occupied the area, Elman observed where they tended to gravitate and developed her room design with that knowledge. She explained that one of the interior rooms was avoided by students in that first month because students thought it was cold and uninviting. Elman promptly remedied the situation by adding a cardboard bird statue from Passion Works Studio and hanging student art on the walls with twine, which made the space feel more like the students’ own.

Students appreciate Elman’s interior design. “I love the burst of color when you walk in,” said Becca Ryan, a senior publication design major. “It doesn’t even feel like a classroom.” She explained that her time spent in the Creative Spring Studio offers her a reprieve from the stress of her other classes.

Elman’s Creative Process class is about creating on a daily basis and not waiting for a bolt of inspiration. She wants students to build their creative muscle and be open to seeing how others work through creativity roadblocks, which is why the room is structured to promote communication and sharing. “This class is all about creating and getting out of a rut,” explained senior publication design major Emily Caruso. “This room allows for better communication and fosters an environment for creativity.”

Part of this environment includes the studio being deemed a “low tech zone” by Elman. She wants students to be present, with their digital devices tucked away, allowing them to decompress and step back from the stresses of the day. This “be present” mindset has spilled over into the class’ 72 Day Project, which challenges students to do one creative thing per day and document it. Elman explained that the project seems easy at first, but provides a way for students to grow and develop their creative ideas as the days roll on. “The project forces you to do the same task, but in a new and different way every day,” Ryan said.

Each project is different, showcasing the individuality of the creative process. Projects range from doodles documenting what a student ate in a day to short videos archiving the most important events of each of the last 72 years. You can follow #72DayProject on Instagram to see how the 72-day journey plays out for the students.

For Elman, the project—and the studio itself—is about pushing through creativity ruts and just creating something. The studio has also been used by other professors and the Dean as a creative space to brainstorm and create. For the time being, the studio is not open outside of specific class times or meetings, but Elman hopes that in the future she will be able to open it up to allow people to come and go as needed for a little creative energy.

With all the people that have passed through the Creative Spring Studio, one thing has remained the same. “I always see a lot of smiles in this room,” Elman said, grinning.

For more information about the Creative Spring Studio, you can email Julie Elman (elman@ohio.edu) or follow the studio and the School of Visual Communication on Instagram.

See photos of Creative Spring Studio on our flickr album.