Smile Politely

The Institute 4 Creativity holds strong

When I went to interview Bill Longfellow, the director of the Institute 4 Creativity, I found him busy at work over huge table making the new, outdoor I4C logo sign himself. He’s both a brilliant artist and an organized and creative leader.

This visit with Bill at the I4C was actually my third visit to the huge loft space at 111 S. Walnut St. in Downtown Champaign, between the old Tea shop and the Brass Rail Bar. During my first visit, I met Bill and got a tour of the gallery, live show space, and several classrooms that sit above a storefront in the middle of the block. That conversaion resulted in Bill offering me the chance to show my photography in an upcoming show. In fact, he was so engaging in how he talks about his philosophy on creativity that I found myself happily agreeing to teach two after school classes for kids on French Culture in C-U and on the Chateau of Versailles this winter. 

Obviously Bill is passionate about the birth of his the Institute, and he wants to involve everyone: people of all ages, ethnicities, beliefs, experiences, education levels, and skills. The I4C is here for our entire community.

Bill told me, “Everyone is creative.” He defines creativity as being the product of four “drivers”: (1) experience, (2) knowledge, (3) skill, and (4) motivation (or will). 

(And, yes, Bill did note that the anagram I4C does have a 4 in it for the four drivers.)

The “product” of the four drivers, Bill, explained, is creativity, and that “to actually create requires us to choose to create.” 

He expanded by saying, “Each of us has a unique past, present, and future, or ‘experience.’ Each of us has our understanding of other people’s experiences, or ‘knowledge.’ Each of us has the ability to manipulate the physical world, or ‘skill.’ And finally, and most importantly, each one of us has the ability to decide and to choose, or ‘motivation.’”

Therefore, Bill says the mission of the I4C is to “facilitate development of these four drivers and to ultimately help people and communities to manifest their creative aspirations.”

Bill’s theories on creativity sounded like a mouthful; however, he is able to break it down simply for anyone to understand. He emphasized that the I4C is not about getting a degree or having a degree in any subject; it is about any kind of person enjoying the process of creating. Therefore, the I4C offers an array of courses, such as West African Drumming, The Healing Art of Touch (a massage class), Adobe photoshop, Intro to ETSY, Visual Journaling, Figure Drawing and Painting, Artifacts and Paper Pulp, Jazz Guitar, Jazz theory and improvisation, and many more. 

Bill holds a Bachelor’s degree from the Art Institute of Chicago and is very approachable, friendly, and open to all people. He grew up locally, graduated from Centennial High School in 1982, attended Parkland, and traveled around the world, since his dad was in the Air Force based out of Rantoul.

Bill told me, “At a very young age, starting at the age of 10, 11, or 12, I became fascinated with the creative process. I have always been involved with creative activities.  My life has been a string of projects. Because I felt that urge, I painted, drew, made music, and I also had an interest in farming, history, science—everything.” 

Yet he continued, “More than identifying myself as a kind of artist, I was interested in the creative process and how it is manifested in the world.”

Bill started the I4C as a non-profit organization in Arkansas in 1988 with the name of “Choice.”  Choice has now evolved into the current Institute 4 Creativity in Champaign. 

Bill said, “What inspired me to create the I4C was the  inability to find academic programs that focus on creativity itself: Creativity with a capital C instead of part of another discipline. It is worthy of attention in and of itself.”

Bill teaches courses on creativity in and of itself in his own class, titled “Yes You Can!”  In addition, Bill is still looking for more teachers and will be offering even more classes after the current session, which runs from January to March, 2014.

The I4C had a soft opening in July of 2013. Since then, it’s been in “constant expansion mode,” now offering many more classes than the four it originally offered. There have also been a few musical shows and an opening event that brought in 200 people. This winter, the I4C is starting off its new sessions with a bang, hosting a huge reception open to the public on Saturday, January 18 from 7-9pm.  

Bill will also be expanding in the future with more shows and events and is looking for artists who want to be featured. 

In conclusion, or perhaps, shall we say, with no limitations, Bill invites all people to participate in the four creative drivers: “to seek out enriching experiences; to seek out knowledge; to learn skills; and to clarify their motivation,” all while having fun in the process.

For more information, and to sign up for classes, Bill can be contacted here.  In addition to I4C’s Facebook page, a website will be coming soon.

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