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Arabic Got Talent exhibit of students creative work by the Mary Kochoff Hall in CASL.

Creative Projects: Where Students Can Teach US

The creative flux that learners generate during class interactions with the material they learn, the instructor, and each other can garner an enthusiastic support when displayed and showcased. This show of talent combined with the academic accomplishment of the end of a semester, and the intellectual satisfaction of finishing a college course, can together culminate a process of learning, cementing creativity as a form not only of self-expression, but also of community engagement, that can be empowering to everyone involved.

This overflow of creative responses to learning has lent itself to a collective experience led by students of the Arabic and Comparative Literature classes this semester. In 2020, I organized a gathering of creative projects for Arabic classes in an event called Arabic Got Talent. The effort was discontinued during the pandemic. In an attempt to bring it back, I asked students to present their creative work in a revived Arabic Got Talent. Paintings, calligraphy, a performed narrative, and recited poetry, were all presented both at the Kochoff Foreign Language and Media Lab and at the Center for Arab American Studies room. In addition to submissions of creative work, students produced more creative work on the spot. 

At a time of crisis, seething with a sense of helplessness, loss of confidence, and disconnect from cultural roots, creativity can help. The work presented by students ranged from calligraphic work of Arabic words, to paintings of the Palestinian flag, to paintings of Yemeni origins, Iraqi Mesopotamian sites, to poetry reading, to stage performance based on the Arabian Nights story of a magic lamp, only this one asking for world peace and stability.

A collection of the paintings is exhibited at the glass display in the atrium by the Mary Kochoff Hall, perhaps a testimony of how creative responses to learning can end up teaching us about the world. Creativity in classrooms can turn learners into educators. If only we are willing to listen and see.

The photo above shows the exhibit of students’ artwork from the Arabic Got Talent, displayed by the Mary Kochoff Hall in CASL. Below are videos of students’ performances.