Friday, July 28, 2017

Annual Meeting, April 12, 2017

As part of the 40th year celebration, Providence Children’s Museum invited special guest Tim Gunn to speak about creativity at the Annual Meeting on April 12.
Earlier in the day, Tim Gunn had mentored a group of students from Highlander Academy in Providence in a fashion design exercise using newspaper and other craft materials. The students worked in teams to create outfits inspired by the Museum’s exhibits.
Tim Gunn is best known for his role as mentor on Project Runway and Project Runway Jr. and children might recognize his voice as that of Baileywick on Disney Junior’s Sofia the First. Before that, he served as faculty and Chair of Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design and as Chief Creative Officer for Liz Claiborne.
After presenting awards to Museum volunteers and voting to elect new Board Members, Providence Children’s Museum Executive Director Caroline Payson, who has been a personal friend of Mr. Gunn for 30 years, facilitated a conversation with him in front of an audience of almost 200. They opened the discussion by acknowledging creativity as “a muscle, not a muse,” where you can build your confidence and get better at it, especially at a place like the Museum.
Mr. Gunn described the creative act as “life-saving” in his own childhood.  A self-described book worm, he studied classical piano for twelve years and his love of Legos led him to begin his studies in architecture. He loved that there was no “answer in the back of the book,” instead exploring what was inside and how to draw it out. This led him to appreciate discipline, quality, and work that is conceptually solid, which has been the foundation of his entire career.
Several times in the conversation, Mr. Gunn described how inspired he has been when working with young people. Not only has he been impressed by the quality of the work they have produced, such as during the fencing challenge on Project Runway Jr, but he admires the passion he sees young people exhibit and their “unerring commitment to technique.”  He was unnecessarily worried that young people would be discouraged by an honest critique and by the show’s framework which requires an elimination at the end of each episode. Instead, the participants were eager for useful feedback and exhibited extensive confidence and poise.
During the question-and-answer portion of the conversation, one 18-year-old aspiring fashion designer asked for advice for those just starting out. “You need to find a point of view,” said Mr. Gunn. “Know who you are.” Then, referencing an earlier point about the importance of remaining relevant, he added, “and know what’s going on in the world.” When answering a question from a parent wanting to encourage creativity in children, he suggested providing sincere encouragement. “Ask, ‘what do you want to do? What makes you excited? What makes you want to leap up and train to do something?’"
Mr. Gunn stressed the importance of places like the Children’s Museum that help young people discover these future passions.  Some of the Annual Meeting attendees were specifically interested in fashion design, some were more generally interested in creativity, and some came specifically to celebrate the Museum, but everyone left that evening having been truly inspired.

To watch the video of the entire conversation with Tim Gunn, check the Museum’s Facebook page.