Artist and educator Robert Kelly is an associate professor in the Faculty of Arts and an adjunct associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary where he teaches creativity theory and practice, studio art and design and curriculum theory and design.
Robert’s research is focused on the concept of creativity and its applications for educational practice. Of particular research interest is the nature of idea generation and development, design thinking and the development of supporting environments and practice. His recent book Creative Expression, Creative Education ( co-edited with Carl Leggo) presents the case for creativity as a primary rationale for education. In this book the reader is taken on a journey through the various dimensions of the concept of creativity through a survey of contemporary creativity theory and a detailed look at the nature of idea generation and idea development. Throughout the book the reader bears witness to the creative acts and ruminations of prominent poets, playwrights, artists, authors, composers and performers from across Canada. This volume is the first of three funded by conditional grants from Alberta Education. They collectively focus on creativity as a primary rationale for education driven by his personal belief that all students and all educators should be creating original work in all disciplines at all levels of education.
Robert received his undergraduate training in education at the University of Western Ontario (Western University) followed by master’s graduate work in art education at the University of Victoria and doctoral work in education at the University of Calgary.
He has taught in public education for several years at the junior high and secondary levels in the areas of fine arts, social studies, gifted education and outdoor education. Robert has been an Associate of the Centre For Gifted Education at the University of Calgary where he was responsible for mentorship and fine arts. He has also designed archaeology-based educational programs as curator of a historic site at Longwoods Road Conservation Area in Ontario centred around a re-creation of a 15th century Iroquoian village and adjacent archeological excavations. He has written two books on Canada’s indigenous peoples. His diverse educational background is rounded out with extensive teaching experience in the athletic areas of tennis and Nordic skiing.
Robert has received numerous awards for teaching excellence while teaching at the junior high and secondary levels in public education and also at the post secondary level. He is currently featured on the University of Calgary’s Great Teachers website.
The following are published student anecdotes that have accompanied teaching awards and course evaluations.
“This professor is passionate about education and creativity and it shows in his teaching style. He is articulate and knowledgeable about that which he teaches. He does not ‘stand and deliver’ but rather allows us to form our own opinion and evolve in our understanding.”
“This professor is extremely committed to his students learning. His knowledge has been extremely helpful to me and he communicates it expertly and with humour which makes this class fun to attend and invaluable in its content.”
“Robert facilitated the class in a way that the entire content and purpose of the course was to experience the process of creativity. He helped us understand the concepts of invention and creativity through collaborative “fuelling of ideas” activities that gave a greater understanding of inquiry learning. He challenged us to constantly adopt an inventive mindset.”
As artist, Robert’s recent studio work is his conceptual Minutia installation which consists of eleven books of concrete poetry on lecterns, based on the eleven words from the sentence fragment “the first time I heard the sound of a page turning.” The essence of this work is that awareness of minutiae is fundamental to meaningfulness.This installation takes components from our language and recontextualizes them to create an arena to explore meaning.
Concurrent to the Minutia project is his Concept of Raven series comprised of large painted images with sculptural components using the raven to explore the human condition. Concept of Raven is an exploration of land, spirit and culture. He has also produced an intensely coloured woodcut print series entitled An Unkindness of Ravens. Robert has painted extensively in egg tempera and watercolour.
Robert Kelly has been a featured keynote speaker at lectures and workshops internationally speaking on creativity and educational practice where he is known for sharing his numerous insightful and humorous anecdotes from his diverse personal journey. He currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in the Alberta town of Cochrane where he can be often seen engaging in some of his favourite activities running, cycling and hiking.