The power of creative capacity

Interlochen President Trey Devey reflects on the value of creativity in a variety of fields and invites you to celebrate with the Interlochen Arts Academy Class of 2021.

Students present a scene from "The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes"

Theatre students stage a production of Christopher Dimond and Michael Kooman's musical The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes.

Dear Students and Families,

As you know, the development of creative capacity is a central component of The Interlochen 5, the defining characteristics of an Arts Academy education. In a world increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence and automation, creative capacity will remain essential and enduring across all professions. It’s a mindset that allows you to tap into your own wellspring of creative thought—not just through the arts, but as an approach to life—and it is a distinctive part of the Academy.

The more you exercise this core capacity, the more you’ll reflexively draw upon creativity to meet both challenges and opportunities. Indeed, creative solutions will generate the breakthroughs we need to solve many of the complex challenges our world faces. And as the path toward your vision is anything but a straight line, let creativity guide you toward your ultimate goals.

Interlochen Arts Academy alumni often remind me of the transformative power of creative capacity. As you learn more about our alumni community, you’ll find leaders whose capacity for creativity endows them with unmatched versatility and the ability to lead positive change across fields and industries.

One recent interdisciplinary arts alumna, for example, Melanie Chitwood (IAC 09-10, IAA 10-12), applies skills she acquired at Interlochen to a career in public health. A research associate in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health, Melanie helps to develop life-saving statistical analyses and public health modeling for hospitals. Recently, Melanie acknowledged how arts training at Interlochen prepared her for work in epidemiology: “At Interlochen, you stay in the practice room until you get it right. I do the same thing as an epidemiologist: I stay at my computer until the model comes out right. That drive is something I fondly remember, and I think it is what has made me so successful in this field.”

Recent Arts Academy musical theatre graduate Jackson Gifford (IAA 17-20, IAC 17) draws on his creative capacity to pursue a broad vision: Producing accessible theatre for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. As the producing artistic director of Southern Plains Productions, Jackson oversees both the operations and artistic vision of the company, which will open its first production, a play by Drama Desk Award winner Bess Wohl, this month.

These are just two examples of the many Interlochen alumni whose creative capacity helps them lead enriching careers that improve our world. It is my hope that through the study of the creative process practiced across the Academy’s disciplines, you too will begin to apply this capacity to all aspects of your lives.

None of us would have chosen the unusual circumstances of this Academy year, but I’ve seen firsthand how the constraints of our safety protocols have already deepened your creative capacity. From our actors and dancers finding new ways to express intimacy and connection without physically touching and our musicians mastering new repertoire for smaller ensembles, to our visual artists and creative writers illuminating this moment in history through their works, you’ve stretched your creative muscles to make art in new ways.

Three exhilarating days of performances and presentations, our upcoming Festival tradition will celebrate and showcase your creative capacity. This year in particular, your creative energy will bring joy to our campus community and friends around the world as we revel in your dedication to the arts through difficult times, and envision a post-pandemic future. Encourage your family and friends to join us virtually as we celebrate one of humanity’s greatest gifts: the gift of creativity.

In the months and years ahead, your creative capacity will continue to help you grow more adaptable, independent, and curious, setting you on a lifelong path of discovery. I can’t wait to see what you do next—here at Interlochen and long beyond.

With admiration,
Trey