Katheryn Cullen

Fostering Creativity in Adolescents

February 16, 2022

A team of University of Minnesota scientists, clinicians, designers, and artists led by Kathryn Cullen, MD, and the Weisman Art Museum will collaborate on a Research Lab that explores creativity in adolescents through arts engagement.

Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the University of Minnesota, the keystone project of this 10-year program will involve a one-year adolescent arts program to serve as a mini-laboratory, with a diverse group of adolescents serving as co-creators of knowledge with the scientists and artists on the research team. Together, they will explore cognitive and social processes of creativity in the context of arts engagement, and co-develop an MRI experiment to measure brain processes during meaningful creative contemplation.

Both qualitative and quantitative methods will be used to examine the program's impact on youth outcomes. The adolescents’ artwork created during the program will be showcased during a Weisman Art Museum exhibit at the end of the year. Subsequent stages of the 10-year research lab will build on the insights gained in the keystone study.

In addition to Cullen, the NEA Research Lab Collaborative Team includes Abimbola Asojo, PhD, Gail Bernstein, MD, Mark Fiecas, PhD, Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, PhD, Wilma Koutstaal, PhD, Angie Mejia, Bryon Mueller, PhD, Boris Oicherman, PhD, Yuko Taniguchi, and Peng Wu.

"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work together with this amazing interdisciplinary team," said Cullen. "Adolescence is such a critical time for brain development and identity formation—this is when we figure out who we are, and what we want to pursue in this life.That's why engaging in the arts during this time is so important, because discovering and fostering young people's creative talents during these years will have life-long impacts. Our work will take an in-depth look at these processes, and advance the field by providing new tools for future research."

This research builds on previous work by Cullen and Taniguchi in the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration of the Weisman Art Museum, Asojo’s youth Diversity in Design programs, Mejia’s expertise in community-based participatory research, Koutstaal’s research on fostering creativity, and recent collaborations by Cullen, Klimes-Dougan, Mueller and Fiecas on brain flexibility in youth.

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