The Essential Human Essences Of Creativity, Imagination And Beauty with J. Ruth Gendler

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At a very young age, Ruth Gendler became enamored with elements of creativity like words, colors and beauty. After years of writing, painting and teaching, she has come to know herself as an “Anthropologist of the Imagination.” She offers insight into some qualities that are our steadfast companions, such as joy, love of beauty, curiosity, and courtesy. These qualities can take on a life of their own. “They’re a part of us and they’re apart from us,” she likes to say. Gendler asserts that creativity does not lead to efficiency and patience and that even boredom should be a welcome part of the creative process. Creativity gives us a reason to slow down in this instant world. She suggests taking the time to write letters. Reading and writing letters are two things we hardly make time for but when one takes the time, writing can become a luxurious experience. Creativity flows through a personal filter that is otherwise unnoticed and art is clarifying and revealing. She gives an example of a group of elementary school children working on an assignment to draw a picture of George Washington. She was struck by how much each version resembled the child creating it. Gendler offers the listeners a few prompts to get the creative process started. She suggests asking yourself questions and waiting patiently for the answers. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


J. Ruth Gendler is an artist and a writer and has been a teacher of writing and art for more than twenty years. She leads workshops in writing and creativity throughout the United States, and has been an artist in residence with California Poets in the Schools and Young Audiences of the Bay Area. She has worked with elementary, middle school and high school students teaching through California Poets in the Schools and she writes about the transformative power of art. In October 2007 the Lineage Dance Company presented a theater piece based on her book The Book of Qualities (Harper Perennial 1988), now in its 52nd printing.

J. Ruth Gendler's books include:

To learn more about the work of J. Ruth Gendler go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How Gendler first got started in writing about qualities as a child
  • How creativity can manifest in many different outfits but efficiency is not one of them
  • How does Gendler work with children and young people
  • How teachers can support a student’s lifelong creative trajectory
  • How we can have conversations with nature, doorways, windows
  • Why we need to revive the art of hand writing a letter or postcard
  • How do you see and listen
  • When does an idea become a quality
  • Can you have a conversation with art
  • What does art reveal about you

Host: Justine Willis Toms     Interview Date: 9/17/2014     Program Number: 3521

Music Playlist

From Album: Weya
Artist: René Jenkins
2014 VibeTherapy Records

Opening Essay: Track 04 Water Drops
Music Break 1: Track 03 Udu Moi Noodles
Music Break 2: Track 01 Koi
Music Break 3: Track 04 Water Drops (reprise