Ev Mann on Carnegie Library Project

Robert ‘Evry’ Mann, founder of the Center for Creative Education, took some time with the KingstonCitizens.org blog to update the community on the next steps in the Carnegie Library Project as well as why this work is important for youth of our community. He also said the Bank Street College of Education approved a proposal to work with CCE to develop an academic program at the Carnegie Library.

Editor’s Note: I was going to format like a traditional Q&A, but thought his responses work well as a straight narrative.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

“So let me begin by saying that we see the Carnegie renovation as one part of a wonderful synchronicity that is happening in Kingston right now. We have been talking for years about a Broadway ‘arts corridor’ and now over the past few years Henry Ellenbogen got Seven21 Media Arts up and running, Chris Silva has revitalized UPAC and the voters have approved a bond for the renovation of the Carnegie.

This also ties in nicely with what Mark Greene is doing with the rebranding of Kingston. And we are seeing more and more very talented folks come to Kingston to live and work. It’s a very exciting time and we are delighted to be part of it.

[Regarding the Carnegie renovation] the state has agreed to cover 58 percent of the renovation costs because the building will be used during the school day for educational purposes. This is a good thing for Kingston taxpayers, but it does mean the process is going to take longer than it normally would due to all the reviews that must take place in Albany before we can begin work. We are also not sure how much asbestos and other hazardous materials must be removed and the exact nature of the historic preservation that will be required. All of this to say, we hope to begin work on the building early next year and to be open by spring of 2011.

[Regarding the importance of this project, Mann said,] our thinking has been very much shaped by researchers like Daniel Pink, whose most recent book, A Whole New Mind, is serving as a bit of a template for what we envision happening inside the building once it is renovated. In brief, Pink argues that our pedagogy must shift from being almost exclusively left brain oriented to a focus on strengthening the skills associated with the right brain, i.e. creativity, harmony, synthesis, etc.

There are forces in the world, namely automation and the explosion of science and mathematical training in Asia that are driving this — most of the traditional left brain activities in which the U.S. excelled can now be done either by computers or knowledge workers in places where the wage scale is drastically lower than here. As a culture, we have advantages when it comes to creative, right brain stuff and it is time we make this a serious national commitment. You don’t abandon left brain training; it remains important but we must balance this with creative skill building as well.

Not for nothing did we name ourselves the Center for Creative Education back in 1989 when we were envisioning this organization. We have been doing what Pink talks about for years now and the research and public mood has caught up with us. We have seen first-hand how the focus on learning a dance routine can translate into the history classroom, how the discipline of learning to play a song can help students succeed in math.

What we want to see happen at the Carnegie is a return to the ancient notion that art and science are not separate endeavors. But the scientific part is now embodied in this incredible technology that can be used in so many creative ways. Our goal is to make a home for creativity, tap into that wellspring and let it flow where it will: into astrophysics or ballet, biology or rhythm & poetry (RAP). The place is going to be a bit of a paradise for geeks and dreamers, abetted by all talented folks we have in this town who will serve as adjunct faculty.

The classes at the Carnegie will complement and expand what is already going on inside Kingston High School and as a non-profit we will be able to do things that are not possible for the school district. Just yesterday, we found out that the Bank Street College of Education has approved a proposal to work with CCE on the development of the academic program. They are leaders in the field of experiential learning and we are very excited about this collaboration. We are taking this opportunity seriously: not only do we get to renovate and reanimate an incredibly lovely historic structure but we can create an academic program that inspires and empowers our children, prepares them for satisfying careers in work that creates a better future for us all.”

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