Creativity can be taught: Rice invites everyone to experience Creativity Up Close

Moody Center for the Arts will host lecture series featuring researchers from across U.S.

Rice students in Professor Anthony Brandt’s popular Creativity Up Close course explore neuroscience, psychology, sociology and the economics of creativity as they develop hands-on projects throughout the semester. This year, the public is invited to learn alongside those students with a free lecture series at the Moody Center for the Arts featuring distinguished researchers in the study of creativity.

Anthony Brandt

“Creativity can be taught and should be a central part of every student’s education,” said Anthony Brandt, who’s offering a free public lecture series as a component of his Creativity Up Close course.

“I love connecting with the community, especially on a topic that I find so compelling and inspiring,” said Brandt, who chairs the composition and theory department at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music. “It’s also a chance to showcase the Moody Center, which is now humming with student activity and exhibiting beautiful site-specific installations.”

Psychologist James C. Kaufman from the University of Connecticut will launch the series with a Feb. 5 lecture titled “Why Creativity? Toward better and newer positive outcomes.” On Feb. 26, sociologist Teresa Amabile from Harvard University will present a lecture titled “A Labor of Love: Lessons from a Creativity Research Program.” Psychologist Dean Keith Simonton will wrap up the series April 16 with a lecture titled “Creativity in the arts and sciences: Contrasts in disposition, development, and achievement.”

Lectures will begin at 7 p.m. in the Moody’s Lois Chiles Studio Theater. A Q&A session and book signing will follow each.

This is the second year Brandt has taught the course and the second time he’s offered a free public lecture component. In 2017, he brought neuroscientist Robert Bilder and psychologists Keith Sawyer and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to Rice for his first Creativity Up Close series.

“I’m excited and grateful to have another trio of field leaders,” Brandt said. “James C. Kaufman has written or edited over 45 books on creativity, Teresa Amabile is a pioneer in the research into the social psychology of creativity and Dean Keith Simonton is one of the most frequently referenced creativity experts, especially on the subject of genius.”

Creativity Up Close
In addition to the public lectures, each guest will also teach a class, giving Rice students first-hand contact with researchers on the cutting edge of creativity.

Brandt, who also serves as artistic director of the award-winning new music ensemble Musiqa, is constantly busy. In addition to the courses he teaches each semester, he also co-authored “The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World” with acclaimed neuroscientist David Eagleman in 2017. Their book, which is being published in 10 countries, took four years to write and served as inspiration for Brandt’s Creativity Up Close course.

“Two of the core points of the book are that all humans are creative — it’s natural and even fantastically ‘ordinary’ for our species — and that creativity can be taught and should be a central part of every student’s education,” Brandt said. “I wanted to teach a course that put some of our concepts to the test in the classroom, as well as create a forum for student and guest perspectives on such a rich and complex subject.”

The course itself also takes place in the Moody Center, which will be transformed this semester with large-scale collages of imagined flora by Rice Assistant Professor Natasha Bowdoin and post-apocalyptic landscapes by French artist Michel Blazy and Japanese film director Momoko Seto. In addition to such diverse Moody-centered courses as Mark DeYoung’s Liberation Theologies, Timothy Morton’s Practices of Literary Study and the enduringly popular Monster co-taught by Mike Gustin and Deborah Harter, Brandt’s course will help continue to explore the possibilities of interdisciplinary scholarship at the Moody and at Rice.

“I developed the course very much with the Moody Center in mind,” Brandt said. “Moody is a hub for creativity and multidisciplinary work, and I wanted the course to reflect both those priorities.”

The Creativity Up Close Lecture Series takes place at the Moody Center for the Arts Feb. 5, Feb. 26 and April 16 at 7 p.m. Seating is limited; advance registration is recommended at

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.