Tapping Into Our Creative Spirit

Whenever I think we’re all going to hell in a handbag and get dispirited about humankind’s ability to rescue ourselves and the planet, I always find renewal and hope in the Arts.

A few months ago, when I was at the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, I was reminded of the importance of the creative arts in our lives. Despite or perhaps because of the hardship the city has endured, the sense of culture, community, place, and the arts stands out for its vibrancy and uniqueness. 

There's something special about the human capacity to create that inspires wonder and awe, and that challenges people to think differently. As a species, we have a longstanding need to communicate our thoughts and feelings through the arts. To me, this means we also have the immense untapped capacity and creativity that are needed to resolve our greatest challenges and problems. 

We all have creative spirit, and finding that spirit is one of the joys of life. Immersing yourself deeply in music, drawing, painting, dance, theater, photography, and many other activities where you can forget yourself and enter a near-meditative state is deeply satisfying and rewarding.

We also know that that the arts and our culture can inspire us, bring us together, and propel us toward collective action. They can help us feel connected as part of a larger movement. When a town, community, or city has vibrant arts and culture, this contributes deeply to a sense of place and to a valued feeling of uniqueness and community. 

We need to tap all the creative energy that lies among us, both for our own well-being and to energize us for social action. We need to inspire our friends, colleagues, neighbors, and community in creative and dynamic ways that reinforce a sense of social connection and coming-together.

In short—we need to inject more fun, humor, and creativity into our work. One example of a fun, arts-based group for social change is in my own backyard: Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers. Through CLAW, theater gets physical and women actors take on outrageous personas to arm-wrestle each other to bring the community together and raise funds for local charities. It’s now gone national, with Lady Arm-Wrestling leagues being created in cities across the country!  

In the tradition of street theater, there are also fabulous groups like the San Francisco Mime Troupe. And long-time supporters of New Dream know about Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir’s wonderfully creative performances on hyperconsumerism, or our former Board member Chris Jordan’s incredible photography of trash.

So pick up a paintbrush, camera, or drawing pencil; don a guitar, costume, or your dancing shoes, and get busy rejuvenating yourself and your community!   

If you know of other fun, creative uses of art for social change happening in your own neighborhood or region, share them with us by emailing

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