TEDx talk to focus on future of creativity

MANCHESTER -- What's creativity? More importantly, perhaps; what's the future of creativity? What forms will it take? How will they be different from ones we are already familiar with?

These questions and more are among those likely to be addressed by a series of speakers who will be participating in the area's first ever TEDx talk this Saturday, June 22, at the Riley Center for the Arts at Burr and Burton Academy.

TED is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, which operates under the slogan "ideas worth spreading". TED was founded in 1984 as a one-off event. Annual conferences began in 1990, in Monterey, Calif., according to the TED.com website.

The event in Manchester Village Saturday will be what is known as a TEDx talk, meaning it follows a similar format to an official TED event, but is planned and coordinated independently on a local or community basis.

Mark Puryear, a Burlington-based independent business consultant helped organize this weekend's TEDx event, which will feature at least 10 speakers, several of them from the local area.

Puryear got the idea to try to organize the TEDx talk while working on a marketing plan with local businessman and retired psychologist Albert Levis, who operates a locally based art institute on conflict analysis.

"I've always watched TED talks, and you always hear interesting stuff," Puryear said. "I went to the TED website and did some research and applied for a license."

"TED" stands for technology, entertainment and design, but the scope and scale of the TED discussions have gone well beyond those boundaries. Someone visiting the TED website this week would find downloadable videos by speakers holding forth on a wide ranging list of subjects, from education, science, the arts, leadership principles, psychology and creativity.

TED talks are tightly organized speeches given by experts in the fields they are discussing. They last no more than 18 minutes, and are designed to explore an issue or problem concisely yet thoroughly. The idea is to foster the spreading of thought provoking ideas to prompt fresh approaches to solving the issues raised, according to the TED website.

As at the end of 2012, more than 16,000 talks have been given at more than 5,000 TEDx events in 1,200 cities in 133 countries. In June 2012, five TEDx events on average were being organized every day, in one of 133 countries.

After being rejected for one proposed theme on "how the mind works," he and Levis settled on the idea of exploring the future of creativity, Puryear said. "What's interesting about the theme is with creativity, people are always thinking about the visual arts, or the performing arts, but creativity is involved in everything," he said. "That's reflected in the variety of the speakers."

The speakers at Saturday's event include Chuck Scranton, the former headmaster of Burr and Burton Academy; Kathleen Colson, the CEO and founder of the Dorset-based BOMA Project, which organizes aid and assistance to communities in Africa through a variety of programs; Tim Daly, an actor currently appearing at the Dorset Theatre Festival in their opening production, "The Scene," by Theresa Rebeck, as well as several others, including Tommy Tallarico, a pioneer in bringing musical soundtracks and enhancing the audio production quality in video games. A complete list of the speakers is available at tedxmanchestervillage.com.

The program will be coordinated by Tom Peters, a well-known business consultant who helped write "In Search of Excellence," one of the classic works on modern day business management.

Peters, who will be serving in a "master of ceremonies" role, said he hoped to be able to bring in some question-and-answer time into the event, either after a speaker finishes or at certain points during the course of the conference. Typically that's not part of the script, but Peters hopes to allow time for some short, focused questions, he said.

Creativity comes in several forms, he said.

"You can do incredibly creative stuff at a Manchester outlet, or what have you," he said. "I think you can bring creativity to anything. Everyone of the speakers seem to be coming at it from a different way and that's 90 percent of the value."

There's a time limit for each of the speakers, they can't use a podium or notes, and their talks are videotaped and uploaded onto the Web for an audience that potentially could number in the millions. That's a combination that can be a little challenging, but Kathleen Colson is looking forward to it, she said.

"I'll be telling a bit about my personal story and weave in the principles of the program we run in North Kenya," she said.

Those programs range from establishing orphanages and elephant conservation programs to assisting local women there start their own businesses, she said.

Her talk will be based on the idea that the developed world needs to be more thoughtful and creative about ways to address poverty in Africa, and will stress the need and possible ways to elevate women to a simple poverty level from abject extreme poverty.

"We need to look at the human condition and the challenge to poverty in different ways, because what we have been doing hasn't worked," she said. "It's about stepping back and coming back to some common sense ideas we seem to have forgotten."

Tommy Tallarico, an iconic figure within the video game industry for his innovations in bringing soundtracks and audio to video games when beeps and simple sound effects were standard, will be giving his first ever TED talk. He has earned numerous honors within the gaming industry. In 2012 during the Game Developers Conference he received a Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also the developer of Video Games Live, a live video concert, multimedia experience now in its 10th year of international touring.

He plans to use part of his talk to emphasize the creativity that goes into video gaming -- an industry and an art form he feels has suffered from a "bad rap" in the mainstream media, he said.

"I will talk a bit about the misconceptions of video games and get that out of the way first, but then go into how video games inspire creativity in people and some of the ways they do that," he said.

And what does he think is the source point of creativity in general? Where does it come from?

Some might argue that economics and self-survival drive the basic creative impulse. Tallarico said there was more that might be added to that. "I think a lot of it -- the inspiration -- comes from the need to be recognized and the need to impress someone," he said. "I don't know any musician who wrote an amazing song and didn't want someone to hear it."

But while a big part of the creative impulse may be explained by ego, the technology of the 21st century is also providing artists and inventors -- as well as businesspeople and tradespeople, with an entirely new set of tools that weren't available earlier, and they will play a big role in the future of creativity, he said.

Like Colson, he's aware that his potential global audience could be enormous, and that places pressure on a speaker to get the facts straight, he said. "It's a very prestigious event," he said. "You want to bring your 'A' game."

The TEDx Manchester Village event will start at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 22, and run until 5 p.m. A reception at the Willburton Inn will follow. The event has been sold out, but will be available through a live webstream during the event at tedx.manchestervillasge.com through a partnership with GNAT TV and Burr and Burton Academy's performing arts department.


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