Where Art and Science Meet, Creativity Thrives

When leading Drawing Jam sessions, award-winning cartoonist and author Lynda Barry has a simple rule: “All adults must be accompanied by a child!” Barry — who holds the Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art — believes that it’s important for students of all ages to reconnect with the uninhibited way children experience the world and express themselves.

As an associate professor with the School of Education’s Art Department and the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID), Barry considers creativity to be vital to our ability to make meaning and sense of the world. She holds what is thought to be the only joint faculty position in interdisciplinary creativity in the country. And instead of acting as critic or evaluator, Barry sees herself as coach and cheerleader, encouraging and helping students to feel free to write, draw, think, and invent in a way that they’ve never done before.

While the arts and sciences are often placed on opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum, Barry wants to convince students that these disciplines can intersect and enrich each other. And despite technology that has made writing and drawing by hand less common, Barry believes thinking, intuition, and innovation come from the original digital devices — our fingers. She teaches students that using their hands can engage the brain, unleashing the creativity within.

By encouraging students to establish a framework to deepen their understanding of themselves and their work, Barry is helping everyone who takes her classes to tap into something they can use during their time at UW–Madison and beyond.

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