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Lecture will highlight the importance of arts in education

Public lecture will highlight the importance of arts in education

Professor Bruce Sheridan wanted to be a writer but his college, Whangarei Boys’ High School, had other plans.

“I was told there was no future in the arts and only given guidance counselling for science,” he says.

“I feel that cost me 10 to 20 years before I finally found my way to music and philosophy. In hindsight I took huge risks, though that was due to bloody-mindedness and determination more than a clear ambition.”

Now the award winning filmmaker and educator is Chair of Cinema Art + Science at Columbia College Chicago. He will discuss his journey in a public lecture ‘Human creativity and the centrality of arts in 21stcentury education’ to be held at the University of Auckland on Monday 26 May.

Professor Sheridan initially took his school’s advice, and followed science as a career path. But the pull of the arts was too strong.

“I went to Massey University to study science with just a vague sense of what I might do if I completed a degree. I dropped out after two years and concentrated on playing music.”

His brief science experience got him a job at Marsden Point Oil Refinery as a lab chemist before he enrolled at Harlequin Recording Studios and graduated as the top student of the inaugural audio engineering programme.

The rest is history. He learnt considerable technical and craft skills working with cameras for Film Facilities and as a music video producer (Crowded House, Dave Dobbyn, Beastie Boys) and director (Greg Johnson, Headless Chickens, Hallelujah Picassos).

Now he writes, produces, and directs drama and documentary for the screen and teaches those disciplines. His productions include Lawless (1999: NZ Best Drama Award winner), Kubuku Rides (2006: Best Narrative Short Award at Memphis IndieFest), and Head Games (2012: Boston Film Festival Best Documentary). His current projects are Children First, a documentary on children of divorce, and The Infinity of Ghosts, a cross-media project about fathers and sons. Professor Sheridan researches imagination, creativity, and improvisation as they relate to artistic development and arts education. An essay outlining this work calledImagine This… is forthcoming in the journal Philosophy & Literature.

He returned to the University of Auckland in the late 1990s where he completed a BA in 2000 and then a BA (Hons) in philosophy with First Class Honours in 2001. He is now completing a PhD at the Faculty of Arts on “Imagination and creativity in human development, education and art-making.”

He has been Chair of Cinema Art + Science at Columbia College Chicago since 2001.

Professor Sheridan will use his lecture to focus on the dangers of polarising art and science as if they map to a polarising between imagination and analytical thinking.

“In high school in the 1970s I was told emphatically that an arts degree had no practical value and that because I had ability in science and maths I should not even consider that kind of education.”

“The arts learning is far easier to extend, re-combine and re-purpose than empirical, scientific learning. Both are important, but an education system that only wants to graduate scientists and engineers is bringing into being a society that can only do the work others want it to do.

“That’s a very bad idea in the long run, especially given the way globalisation is playing out. It’s crucial to graduate people who will create new kinds of work, not just a greater volume of existing forms of work.”

Professor Sheridan’s lecture; ‘Human creativity and the centrality of arts in 21st century education’ will be held on Monday 26 May at the University of Auckland’s Theatre 407, Faculty of Engineering, 20 Symonds Street.


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