Urgent Dreams: Cultivating Creativity in the Williams Curriculum

A Gaudino Fund Initiative

What does creativity mean? In his memoir In Love With the World, Buddhist monk Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche writes that “creativity means staying open to change, and risking failure.” As he sees it, creativity involves letting go of certainty and a “fixed idea of success.” For the poet and writer Audre Lorde, creativity is a vital mode of expression, “the language we use to communicate the urgency of our dreams for a better future.” Creativity can also be a joyful activity, involving imagination, play, and inventiveness. As scientist Albert Einstein famously put it: “creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Williams College values creativity as an essential component of the liberal arts. As stated in the College’s Mission Statement, as Williams President John Sawyer ‘39 argued in his 1961 induction address, among the “most practical knowledge and intellectual resources” offered to students are those “impractical arts and sciences around which a liberal education has long centered,” including “the elasticity to grow, to perceive more widely and more deeply, and perhaps to create.” Honoring such a mission, this Gaudino Fund initiative aims to deepen and enhance creativity in the curriculum, not only in arts-related disciplines but across all fields and areas of study. How can creativity be enriched in the Williams classroom through pedagogies or practices that aim to unsettle a “fixed idea of success” or embrace uncertainty? In what ways can creativity promote openness to new concepts, prompt awareness of different points of view, or provide a roadmap for one’s most “urgent dreams”? What does it really mean to value creativity as a vital mode of inquiry, methodology, and way of knowing across the liberal arts?

As one way of cultivating creativity in the Williams curriculum, the Gaudino Fund will provide funding and support for a series of faculty-initiated Gaudino Creative Residencies:

Gaudino Creative Residencies support short-term campus visits by artists, makers, or practitioners of any field who intend to share their knowledge, skills, and creative expertise directly with students through modes of experiential, participatory, or engaged learning. Such pedagogies are intended to align with the mission of the Gaudino Fund, which, inspired by the legacy of Prof. Robert L. Gaudino, aims to support curricular initiatives that foster connections between lived experience and intellectual endeavor.

Beginning in the spring term of 2024, faculty members from any unit may request up to $2000 in funding to support any event or activity that aligns with the interests of this initiative. To apply for funding, please simply fill out this Google Form to provide a basic description of your proposed residency/visit, a brief rationale of how it will suit the aims of the Gaudino Creative Residencies, and a budget detailing the amount requested. Calls for funding requests will occur at the start of each term through the fall term of 2025 (for residencies occurring in fall 2025-spring 2026), and funding will be distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis.

In addition to supporting Gaudino Creative Residencies, this initiative aims to promote conversation and dialogue regarding the value and meaning of creativity in a liberal arts context. Should faculty have ideas for additional ways to engage with this initiative, please be in touch with the current Gaudino Scholar, Amy Holzapfel, Professor of Theatre, at [email protected].