Conversations on Creativity

We're taking a break. Check out our Fall/Winter Read and Watch List.


For Art Makers, Creators, Viewers, and Appreciators.

It has been quite a ride since we began Conversations on Creativity over 20 months ago! We have loved connecting with you - wherever you are, watching films together and sharing ideas. In order to ensure we are developing programs that truly inspire you (and us!), we felt it was time to take a step back and re-evaluate the format, frequency, and topics of these get-togethers.

While we will miss seeing all of you over Zoom, we have put together a Fall and Winter Read Watch List with staff recommendations for books and films about artists and art-related topics. We hope these suggestions will continue to feed your creative fires over the coming months. Also, all of our previous Conversations on Creativity topics with links to the videos and reading material are below.

Downloand Read & Watch List


Past Sessions

This month we'll start by learning about the origins of graffiti in a TED-ED animation by Kelly Wall. Then, we'll watch Martha Cooper, who has been photographing graffiti and street art since 1978, explain the simple difference between the two and their use around the world. Finally, we'll turn to Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film that is part documentary, part fiction, and sure to provoke discussion.
The Price of Everything
With unprecedented access to pivotal artists and the white-hot market surrounding them, The Price of Everything dives deep into the labyrinth of the contemporary art world. It examines the role of art and artistic passion in today’s money-driven, consumer-based society — where everything can be bought and sold. Featuring collectors, dealers, auctioneers and a rich range of artists, including current market darlings Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and one-time art star Larry Poons, the film exposes deep contradictions as it holds a mirror up to contemporary values and times, coaxing out the dynamics at play in pricing the priceless.
Artist as Inspiration: Nick Cave

In 2019 the New York Times called Nick Cave the most joyful, and critical, artist in America. This month we'll discuss his work and the meaning behind it—introducing his work with a clip from Art 21, diving deeper with a conversation between Cave and Gilbert Vicario at the Des Moines Art Center, before going on a tour of his exhibition Until.

For for further learning, see a clip of a performance at the beginning of Cave's talk at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art or read through a selection of articles and interviews complied by Jack Shainman Gallery.

Installation Art
Since the 1960s the creation of installations has become a major facet of the modern art world. This month, take a look at the history and early influences of installation art; criticism and celebration of the genre (including your own opinions); and an overview of four installation artists working today, including Ragnar Kjartansson and William Forsythe.
Why make art?
People have been creating art for hundreds of thousands of years, but why do we do it? This month we'll take a quick look at an NPR article on how making art helps your brain and a Big Think post on why ceasing to be creative is a mistake. Then, we'll watch an interview with Brian Eno about why human beings are creative on Thought Economics. Come prepared to talk about why you make art or why you think others do.


What are the benefits and pitfalls of romantic relationships between artists? To find out, we'll start with a quick overview of artist couples from The Art Assignment before taking a closer look at the work and relationships of Julie Mehretu and Jessica RankinNoriko and Ushio ShinoharaJasper Johns and Robert RauschenbergMargaret Kilgallen and Barry McGeeTerri Chiao and Adam Frezza; and Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith.


For further reading, read Christopher Bagley's article What Happens When Two Artists Fall in Love or Veronica Kavass's book Artists in Love: From Picasso & Gilot to Christo & Jeanne-Claude, A Century of Creative and Romantic Partnerships

Delve into how different artists have tried to define their role in society by viewing and discussing Manifesto, a film that originated as an art installation. Written and directed by Julian Rosefeldt, the film stars Cate Blanchett as 13 different people reciting artist manifestos from the 20th and 21st centuries.

For further reading, find a list of the artistic movements and related manifestos cited on the film's Wikipedia page.


Failure isn't a lack of success. Failure is just a process that leads to success.

No one likes to fail, but artists, makers, and innovators of all kinds, recognize that failure is an integral part of the creative process. We'll hear from Aurturo Herrera, Milton Glaser, and Elizabeth Gilbert, on how they approach failure. Then when we'll look at how creatives overcome their fears and develop strategies and mindsets to keep moving forward  with Don Dodge of Google, and author Sarah Lewis.

For for further reading, check out Sarah Lewis' book The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, and this compilation of stories from artists in all genres by the National Endowment for the Arts, titled The Art of Failure: The Importance of Risk and Experimentation

Artists at Work
This month, we invite you take a step back from the finished work and dive into how and where it is made. Discover the working studios of 20 artists; from factory-like operations of 150 assistants working around the clock to the highs and lows of collaborative artist teams to the secret behaviors of artists when working alone. Clips from articles and videos explore the many different working styles of artists, while discussion encourages you to share your reactions, as well as your own creative habits and routines. The conversation wraps with a short message from Liz Magor on why everyone should have a studio. 
For further reading and viewing, check out Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton, specifically The Studio Visit chapter, and Art21’s Sacred Grounds playlist
History of Art Through Color

The history of art is inseparable from the history of color. This month, we’ll hear from art conservationist Dr. Gregory Smith as he charts the relationship between chemistry and art over a period of more than 4,500 years. Then, we’ll dive deep into the color blue and explore how one singular color can have such an enormous impact on the history of art.

For further reading, check out "A Brief History of Color in Art," or Victoria Findlay's Brilliant History of Color in Art, published by the J. Paul Getty Museum.


With rare works of art selling for millions at auction, it is no surprise that forgers seek to tap into this market. This month, we’ll hear from former forger Ken Perenyi who now sells “authentic reproductions.” Then, we’ll get tips on how to spot a fake from forensic scientist Thiago Piwowarczyk and art historian Jeffrey Taylor, PhD. We will end with a deep look into the life and motivations of forger Mark Landis and Matthew Leininger, the registrar who tried to stop him, in Art and Craft.

For further reading, check out “How to Spot a Perfect Fake: The World’s Top Art Forgery Detective” by Samanth Subramanian of The Guardian or one of these books about forgery.

Art and Technology

Explore the intersection of art, technology, and the market. We'll start with quick introduction through the British Art Council's What is Digital Art? Then, we'll learn more about the development of the field in Casey Reas's presentation History of the Future, Art & Technology from 1965-Yesterday at the 2015 Gray Area Festival. Finally, we'll see how technology is affecting the art market through a PBS segment on blockchain technology.

For further reading, visit Why is it so Difficult to Define New Media Art? on Widewalls and Art Acacia's post The Art of Tomorrow: How to Collect Digital Art?

Art and the Environment

Artists' interactions with the landscape have created a very different kind of modern art - and make us look again at the world around us. We'll start off with the origins of the movement in PBS The Art Assignment's The Case for Land Art. After that, we'll take an in depth look at the work of major artists working in the field today, including  Andy Goldsworthy's beautiful stone sculptures and James Turrell's extraordinary sky spaces, in the BBC documentary Forest, Field and Sky: Art Out of Nature. We'll end by hearing from two artists whose works call attention to environmental justice in excerpts from Art Basil Conversations: Confronting Climate Change Denial.

Kings of Kitsch

The word kitsch originated in the 19th century to criticize art seen as being in poor taste, or which hopelessly copied “high” art but remained mediocre. Kitsch suffered its most serious intellectual blow in art circles when critic Clement Greenberg railed against it in a famous 1939 essay, in which he claimed it offensive to progressive, avant-garde art since it pandered to the masses. Two short videos introduce the lives and work of Kings of Kitsch Jeff Koons and Thomas Kinkade. Explore the praise and criticism they’ve both received from passersby, collectors, and arts writers and historians alike. Compare and contrast their work against one another as well as other art giants working with similar ideas, subject matter, and/or materials, yet without the kitsch label.


Visual Intelligence is the ability to see what's there that others don't, and to see what's not there that should be. We'll test our own visual intelligence, and through a Google Talk with Author Amy E. Herman, we'll discover how artists and creatives use visual intelligence and uncover whether we can really improve our own visual intelligence. For additional reading, check out Amy's book, Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life.


See how evocative color can be while matching brands with their associated trademarked colors and learn their histories. Find out what happens when a company producing the world’s blackest black decides it can be used by only one artist in the 99% Invisible episode Their Dark Materials. For additional reading, check out the New York Times article “What Is the Perfect Color Worth?”

Good Art, Bad Art, Who Decides?

We'll start off with this month with a bit of humor  and a short video with Jerry Saltz. After that we'll watch a video of  Steve Martin in conversation with Peter Schjeldahl, critic for the New Yorker. Steve and Peter discuss art speak, Peter’s journey from poet to critic, specific artworks and Peter’s process for examining them, and the merits of bad art.

The Art Market

This work of art is worth what?! Explore the ins and outs of the contemporary art market as we listen to Planet Money's podcast Why A Dead Shark Costs $12 Million. For additional reading check out Sarah Thorton's book Seven Days in the Art World.

The Creative Brain

Watch and discuss the documentary The Creative Brain by neuroscientist and best-selling author, David Eagleman. Explore the stories of accomplished professionals from across the creative spectrum and unravel the creative process.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

How do we generate the breakthrough ideas that push forward our lives, our society, our culture?

As the basis for our discussion we'll watch a TED talk by Steven Johnson and another classic TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity and inspiration.