How Learning Artistic Skills Alters the Brain

Are artists born, or made? At the end of Woody Allen’s great comedy Bullets Over Broadway, the John Cusack character concludes that, in spite of his desire and effort, he will never be a creative genius. He simply does not have the gift.

But is his reluctant assumption that artistry is encoded in one’s genes, or perhaps one’s soul, really true? A recently published paper suggests otherwise.

“Creativity is another concept that is often thought of as something we are either born with or will never have,” says Dartmouth College psychologist Alexander Schlegel, lead author of a paper published in the journal NeuroImage. “Our data clearly refute this notion.”

Schlegel and his colleagues report that taking an introductory class in painting or drawing literally alters students’ brains. What’s more, these training-induced changes didn’t only improve the fine motor control needed for sophisticated sketching; they also boosted the students’ creative thinking.

Start doing the work, and the brain responds, allowing one to build and retain not just technical knowledge, but also the imaginative capacity needed to utilize it fully.

Their study featured 35 college undergraduates, 17 of whom took a three-month introductory course in observational drawing or painting. All underwent monthly brain scans using fMRI technology.

At the beginning and end of the study, all participants completed a standard test of creative thinking, which measures such factors as fluency, originality, and the creative use of imagery and language.

During each of the monthly sessions, their brains were scanned under two conditions: as they “judged properties of illusory visual stimuli,” a test designed to track the development of their perceptual abilities; and as they made “quick, 30-second gesture drawings based on observations of human figures.”

“We did not find any improvements in the art students’ purely perceptual skills or related brain activity relative to a control group of students who did not study art,” the researchers write. “We did, however, find that the art students improved in the ability to quickly translate observations of human figures into gesture drawings, and that fine-grained patterns of drawing-related neural activity in the cerebellum and cerebral cortex increasingly differentiated the art students from the control group over the course of the study.”



Competition Date: March 21, 2015

Application DeadlineMarch 9, 2015

During this event students will gain a better understanding of the arts and humanities experience at Parkside. Aside from interviewing and auditioning for the scholarship, students and parents can enjoy entertaining and informational activities throughout the day.

Thousands of dollars in scholarships will be awarded.  Each scholarship is renewable up to four years.

The Picken Scholarship is based on creative work and open to all newly admitted students pursuing art and humanities majors:

  • Art
  • Communication
  • English
  • Liberal Studies
  • Spanish
  • Music
  • Theatre Arts

Graphic Design Internship

Graphic Design Internship
Location: Chicago, IL Posted: Feb 5
Job Description

Radio Flyer holds a special place in people’s hearts. This is true because Radio Flyer transports people to a happy time, to the best parts of childhood, a time when anything was possible. For over 95 years, our company has produced children’s products that bring smiles and create warm memories that last a lifetime and the Radio Flyer brand has become an American icon. Beyond our classic Little Red Wagon ™, today Radio Flyer produces tricycles, scooters, wagons, and many other ride-ons that have fueled our growth and success. Radio Flyer is a recognized leader in the toy industry, headquartered in Chicago – headed by Robert Pasin, grandson of the company founder.

Radio Flyer has consistently been recognized as a top workplace and received numerous awards such as, Best Places to Work in Illinois, Wall Street Journal’s Top Small Workplaces, Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For and Crain’s Best Places to Work. Having fun at Radio Flyer isn’t just another perk, it’s a job requirement!

We are committed to a culture that embraces positive energy, achieves results and drives business growth. At Radio Flyer we live by the Little Red Rule, “Every time we touch people’s lives, they will feel great about Radio Flyer!”



The Graphic Design intern position will play an important role in marketing. Working with the Marketing Team, your specific responsibilities include:

•Design packaging artwork for Radio Flyer products.
•Design visuals for digital, on-line promotion of the Radio Flyer brand.
•Assist at photo and video shoots.
•Manage digital assets.
•Design material for internal customers, including sales presentations and company events.

Required Skills
•The ideal candidate will be a college junior or senior, majoring in Graphic Design with a 3.0+ grade point average
•Experience working with Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign
•Experience with video creation: storyboarding, filming, basic animation and editing
•Creative, Hands-on, innovative; results oriented; strong ability to prioritize objectives and meet aggressive timelines
•Self-motivated, proactive, capable of working independently and as part of a team
•Capacity to understand creative/graphic trends and recommend visual and design direction

Above all, the individual must be an effective problem solver who is committed to our values of • FUNomenal Customer Experiences • Live with Integrity • Yes I Can • Excellence in Everything • Responsible for Success!

S/he will know how to balance multiple priorities, and work toward big picture objectives without losing sight of important details. Organization, planning, execution, and follow-up skills are important.

Energy and enthusiasm are essential. The right person will be willing and able to do whatever it takes to get the job done. This position is ideally suited to an individual who is able to balance creativity with good analytical skills and stay focused on results – someone who enjoys problem solving, loves challenge, and is committed to continuous improvement. Warmth, honesty, integrity, and humor are also important characteristics.

Radio Flyer is looking for people who live our values and who support our vision and mission!

Radio Flyer is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Professor Barber – 2014 RAM Artist Fellowship Winner!!

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Lisa Marie Barber

2014 RAM Artist Fellowship Winner

Artist Statement

In the majority of my creative work, I aim to create small worlds that project positive interpretations of the human condition. My main artistic influences are Mexican folk art and altars rooted in my Mexican-American heritage, Bay Area Figurative Abstraction, and urban landscape. The work is intended to be both celebratory and sober, using accumulation as a way to imply richness, value, and process. All pieces are meant to self-consciously record the presence of being hand-made with minimal, simple tools; I believe this defines and embodies the base “human” spirit I wish to project.

I strive to have my work consist of several layers—physically and conceptually—to describe life as positive, elusive, and rich with sentiment and possibility. Many of my compositions are ceramic installations. Here objects are densely arranged as if around an improvised, decorated shrine. Enveloped by these collections of objects, the life-size figures suggest the human condition. (For the purpose of this application, I have included only images of my installations since they have been the primary emphasis of my studio practice for the past 20 years; I also create mixed media sculpture and quilts, drawings, and paintings.)

Some pieces are simply combinations of my favorite elements: Figures, flowers, cars, planes, buildings, and expressive mark making. Other pieces hint at general or personal narratives. Within these, themes of celebration, loneliness, freedom, and fantasy are the foundation. In all, process is dominant. Boundaries are self-imposed and accumulation is validated as decoration—a way to beautify surroundings uninvolved with the pristine.


Lisa earned her BS in Sociology/Art minor at Northern Arizona University and MFA from the University of Austin, Texas. She is currently Chair and Associate Professor in the art department at University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha.

Her work has been in recent exhibitions at NCECA 2014, Milwaukee, Imagination Center, Modesto, CA, HF Johnson Gallery of Art, Kenosha, Fuller Craft Museum, Brocton, MA, and Indianapolis Art Center.

Lisa has held visiting artist residency positions at City University of New York, Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, Watershed Center for Ceramic Art, Newcastle, Maine, and Mendicino Art Center, California. She has received numerous honors and led workshops from New York to California.

Visit for more information about this artist.

Professor Berenz – CHROMA

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January 9 – February 28

Seven contemporary artists use color and abstraction to define space and structure.

Artists include Tom BerenzDerrick BuischBen GrantMark OttensJeremy PopelkaJason Rohlf and Richard Taylor.





  • The paintings of Tom Berenz blur the lines between realism and abstraction and imaginatively discuss ideological and environmental issues with bold shapes formed by acrylic, oil and spray paint on canvas
  • Derrick Buisch’s decades long practice of maintaining sketchbooks with ideograms of ordinary objects has resulted in distinct images of graphic motifs culminating in a complex collection of individual object Monsters with striking surface tension
  • Ben Grant forms a visual syntax with strings of information made of color and pattern to build
    complex relationships within his paintings on panel
  • Mark Ottens continues to find new ways to express the outer limits of color and depth in his
    highly intricate, many layered, intimately sized paintings

Large Tapestry Bowl



  • Jeremy Popelka blows vibrant, contemporary forms in glass using the ancient technique of Murrini. In the impressive body of work created for CHROMA, he explores new patterns inspired by ancient textiles and revisits Venetian favorites
  • Jason Rohlf incorporates elements of collage and drawing embedded in layers of paint and
    varnish in his rhythmic paintings. Blended marks and stratum form a warm palimpsest surface that is in harmony with his contemporary imagery
  • Richard Taylor’s dynamically painted aluminum sculptures integrate pop color and bold shapes to express his interest in poetry, travel and jazz

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