Q&A Shana Gozansky

What artists/people/cultures have influenced you most?

While theater is my artistic practice, visual art is my first love. I love artists so much. I love how they translate their experiences and how they see and relate to the world. I love how art can move us to tears or fill us with joy or even make us laugh. So I’m as inspired by “Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singin’ In the Rain as I am with Richard Serra’s or Judy Chicago’s work. I love things that seem impossible and that are surprising. So I tend to be inspired by rule breakers. I think cultures where craft, art, and clothing all collapse together are thrilling and inspiring. 

  1. What does creativity mean to you? How do you think we can encourage it in children?

To me, creativity is curiosity in action. It’s going from wondering to doing. The more we let them wonder and explore, the more they develop and trust their own creativity. We often get in the way of their curiosity and creativity by attempting to make it happen or dictating what counts as creative and we miss all the ways they are already being creative. Let them rearrange the furniture to build a fort or dip their hard boiled egg in peanut butter (even though I would never because ew). Ask them to help you solve a problem. See what happens when you swirl all the food coloring together in the water – we know it will end up looking like a bowl of dirty water but they don’t. Let them be in charge of playtime. Let them make the mess.

I think we can simply leave them alone more. Maybe not with scissors but letting them figure it out on their own is key to them building their own creativity and voice.

  1. What has fueled your creativity over your lifetime?

Collaboration. I love collaboration so much. I love being surrounded by creativity and people united in an artistic pursuit and that’s what ignites my creativity time and again.

  1. What has been the biggest change in your field since you first entered it?

As a theater director: we’re finally talking about systemic racism, ableism, misogyny, fat phobia and so on. There’s a greater movement to speak up and out and that is thrilling and necessary work. 

As an author: I’m still so new to all of this that I can’t say what’s changed within the field but I know that what’s changed for me is a deep understanding of how incredibly smart children are. They know when they are being spoken down to or sold a lie. The matter-of-fact way children look at the world has taught me to see things as they are and not through the hardened lens of adulthood. 

  1. What do you think is important for children to practice in the world today?

Practice failing! Even better, find joy in failure. So much of artistic practice is failure. When we embrace failure as information then it leaves us open to trying again. Delight in the failure – “well, at least we know what not to do.” or “We did it! It will never be that awful again!” The mistakes get you closer to the goal. Celebrate the doing over the results so we build resilience to failure. It’s way more fun that way and good practice for being a human.

  1. If you have children, do you practice art with your own children? What do you tell them to do in order to improve their artistic skills?

I’m a theater artist first, children’s book author second but either way I make sure that my kid sees me working. I want her to see that it is work worthy of time, energy, and focus. My child just turned six and her creativity is in stories and world building so I let her talk my ear off. I think the most important thing is to engage with their area of interest and ask them open ended questions – “what made you choose purple for that?” “Tell me about this drawing!” “You used so many different kind of lines in this one!” I don’t see it as my role to help her improve but rather to give her space to develop a relationship with her interests and curiosities. 

  1. What inspired ‘My Art Book of Love’?

I was approached by Phaidon to develop the series with them. So I wan’t the instigator of the concept but I was so inspired by sharing great art with young children. Throughout my childhood my dad used to take me to museums and we would stand in front of a piece of art and he would ask me what I thought about it. That really kickstarted a deep love of art of all forms. 

We knew we wanted to orient each book around a theme and Love was at the top of our list from the beginning. Now we’ve done Sleep, Happiness, and Friendship. It’s such a joy.

  1. What do you do to reignite inspiration when it seems to have dried up?

I am an extrovert through and through so I talk to my friends. I am so lucky to be surrounded by artists and teachers, researchers and scientists. I have nurtured a varied group of friends and all of them are creative and inquisitive. I’ve come to think of periods where inspiration seems far away as sabbaticals. Give it time, live my life, do things I enjoy, and it will come back.

  1. What are your main unfulfilled ambitions?

There’s a novel I want to adapt into a play. But it seems terrifying and impossible which means I just need to do it.

And pasta. I want to learn how to make really good pasta. 

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