A quiz: How many alternative uses for a wastebasket can you think of in 100 seconds? Next, within 10 seconds, can you figure out what word the following words might have in common: bearing, base and meat?
The answer to the second question, if you make the right connections, is "ball." The answers to the first, if you succeed in looking at this commonplace object from unexpected angles, are limited only by your creative imagination. That's the key: creative.
If you make the same kinds of word associations as in the quiz above, "creative" brings to mind genius, artist, inventor. But creativity isn't just the monopoly of just the Einsteins, Picassos and Edisons of the world. Creativity, according to the slogan of a centennial exhibit produced by Chevron Co., is "the human resource." What we usually see of creativity are the results: musical compositions, museums, art galleries, skyscrapers, atom smashers. What Chevron thinks we should be more aware of is the process.
The journey through the exhibit "Creativity -- The Human Resource," starting Saturday at the Kennedy Center, is one of sight and sound. It celebrates not only the working of creative minds that have had major impacts, but taps some of the creative insight everyone has.
Judging from the reactions of the more than 2.5 million visitors who've already seen the exhibit in seven cities, the strongest magnets will be the computer terminals. Step right up, follow the simple directions, punch a few keys and the screen flashes the major creative achievements of every decade for the last century.
The real crowd pleasers are the games that can be played on the computer terminals. They entertain, but they also subtly challenge the imagination. They ask you to make connections among different objects (man-made objects and things in nature); they ask you to see objects in new ways (e.g., a wastebasket); they ask you to recognize patterns (e.g., In which direction will the simulated billiard ball on the screen roll?).
The lesson continues by tracing the paths followed by some well-known creative minds -- the notebooks of scientists, the canvases or artists, the musical scores of composers, the sketches of inventors. It all fits together as you see on video or hear on tape the people themselves who have harnessed their own creativity -- Margaret Mead, Buckminster Fuller, Linus Pauling, John Cage and 12 others.
Beyond the computer banks and displays that stimulate thinking on the spot about creativity, the exhibit attempts to make a lasting impression with a small journal that visitors may take home as a reminder that creativity is everybody's resource.
Creativity -- The Human Resource. Sponsored by Chevron. May 9 through July 5. Daily, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., in the Kennedy Center's Grand Foyer. Free.