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Art & Life with Steven Tepper

Today we’d like to introduce you to Steven Tepper.

Steven, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I pursued visual arts as a kid growing up through high school. At some point, I made the decision that I was not creative enough to continue on the pathway toward becoming an artist. I believe that decision was influenced by mythologies and biases in our culture that affect how we think about creativity. I have spent my life trying to unpack these false ideas to unleash creativity in more people, more places, and across every field and sector. I became a sociologist to better understand the relationship between art, creativity, and society. I built a few cultural policy centers, one at Princeton University and one at Vanderbilt University, in order to advance new ideas about art, culture, creativity, and democracy. Then, I got an invitation from President Michael Crow at ASU to put many of the ideas I had been writing about into action as Dean of the largest comprehensive design and arts college in the nation — the Herberger Institute.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My artwork lives in the faculty and students of the Herberger Institute. We are reinventing a 21st-century design and art school so that its faculty and students can thrive at intersections — because creativity, throughout time, has always blossomed between spaces. We want our faculty and students to move beyond stages and studios in order to advance their artistry and expression in every arena of public life — science, health, community development, sustainability, justice. So, as Dean, every time I help create an opportunity for a faculty member or a student to stretch themselves and work with a new collaborator or partner, to become embedded in their community, to learn a new creative form or entirely new topic, then I feel like my “art” is alive in the world.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
Self-realization that you possess a powerful set of talents and capacities to drive change. Empathy, idea generation, collaboration, pattern recognition, radical revision, the ability to ask ‘what if” questions, tolerance for ambiguity, analogical reasoning; storytelling; embrace of risk and failure. The biggest challenge for artists is recognizing that they possess these skills which are invaluable in the world. In some ways, the greatest challenge is lack of imagination — not when it comes to making art — but when it comes to making themselves as artists in the world.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
We are building a strong group of supporters at the Herberger Institute — friends, alumni, artists — who believe in this mission — who understand the enormous potential of our 5,300 students and 450 faculty and faculty associates to use their imagination to create a healthier, more just, and more sustainable city and world. The world needs more creative minds — our artists and designers — to activate democracy, build our communities, drive economic innovation, design more effective public policies. If you are interested in that mission and want to spend time with some of the most creative people on earth, then get in touch with me —

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Herberger Institute at ASU

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