October 2017

by Sara Lee Burd

Dale Addy explains The Conceptualizer to students

Coming from the theoretical world of graduate school and having years of experience as an award-winning graphic designer, Dale Addy was primed to assume the role of shaping future designers. However, he was confronted with a mindset challenge in the classroom that he would have to overcome: “I give a student an assignment and the first thing they do is start googling it. That’s not really art or design thinking; that’s rehashing what has been done.” Addy elaborated, “I don’t fault the students for this. They are so afraid of getting something wrong and getting bad grades that they are not willing to try. That’s a bad thing for art and for design. Art and design are about failing. Miserably. A lot of times.”

Committed to the idea that drawing is thinking, Addy sketched a rough idea of a machine and experience he wanted to make to spark creativity. He worked with Andrew Caldwell from Nashville CNC to construct what became “The Conceptualizer.” The collaboration and freedom to invent something that neither of them had encountered was a challenge for both of them. Addy notes, “His expertise made it so much more than what I could have made on my own. This is a product of our creative thinking.”

The resulting well-crafted machine calls out to passersby with its bright contrasting colors, eclectic font combinations, and overall active appearance. An art student explained her anticipation to engage with it, “It’s been up since school got back in. I saw this event through the art department newsletter and thought, cool, I can finally find out what this contraption is.”

A student experiments with The Conceptualizer; Photography by Sally Bebawy

The Conceptualizer features three bays labeled “Ponder,” “Think,” and “Cogitate.” Each one has a wheel with 19 words. The idea was for participants to walk up, spin the wheels, and make a new creative expression with the three words. With pastels, crayons, markers, and pre-printed sheets supplied at nearby tables, Addy explains, “You can write a poem, draw, and if you don’t like that, you can come up with your own expression.”

The September debut at Belmont was a success in motivating students’ creativity. A communications major effused, “When I got my ideas I was so surprised that it came together so fast. I had “pen,” “sleepily,” and “noisily.” I made a picture of a pen sleeping with a megaphone so you could see it was snoring noisily. This helped me generate ideas so fast. I immediately had millions of things in my head. It’s just so fun.” She continued, “When I sit down with projects I’m so confused about what I’m going to do. I could see how this could help generate ideas.”

While students at the event appeared happy and proud of what they came up with, some admitted it required digging deep into their creative selves. Two art history students explained that they appreciate art all day, but sitting down to make art was a challenge for them. One noted, “I had to look up a photo of an opossum. Like I don’t know how to draw an ugly dog with a weird tail.” The other chimed in, “It was a little stressful at first because I had to create it. As we kept going we definitely loosened up. We were laughing and having fun.”

Belmont Director of Galleries Katie Boatman was thrilled with the outcome. “I was slightly concerned about participation because people can be so reluctant to put their ideas out there visually thinking.” Pointing to the walls covered with artwork and the students jammed into the entry of the Leu Gallery for the Arts taking turns to spin the wheel and pick up their chosen method of crafting their artwork, she concludes, “That was not a problem.”

Next steps? Addy wants to tour The Conceptualizer to encourage a broad range of communities to experience their own creativity. Committed to the future of innovation, Addy urges, “Don’t let your abilities stifle your ideas. Get them out there. Trends are everywhere. There is a sea of sameness out there that, to me, is not a good thing.”

For more information about Dale Addy and The Conceptualizer, visit www.dnacreative.com.

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