Do dreams, the conscious mind, and the creative process work in tandem to spark inspiration? My creativity seems to arrive from the fusing of different ideas with a well-fed unconscious acting as its springboard.

I find that the inklings of my unconscious directly relate to my explorations of the more rational—the nuts and bolts of my profession. Whenever I do research for possible student assignments, I suddenly start to notice objects in my surroundings that may relate in some obscure way to whatever it is that I’m investigating. I begin to make unusual, eye-opening connections.

Lewis #1 Junge Gym The Inspiration jpeg copy

Jungle gym, the inspiration.

For example, there is a deserted jungle gym that I drive past each day on my way to and from school. When I see this three-dimensional form, I immediately make associations with artists of the past whose sculptures are visually similar to this discarded jungle gym, like Alexander Calder’s whimsical mobiles or Louise Bourgeois’ ominous spider forms. Actually, the shape is more visually related to the round, segmented architecture of R. Buckminster Fuller or the igloos of the Inuits. But, in my mind, I have invented multiple ways that my students (or I) could manipulate this geodesic-dome-shaped mass of metal bars into a fantastic piece of sculpture or a glorious shelter. I imagine that it could be softly adorned with donated yarn and fabric scraps or even woven with long strips of recycled plastic bags. Alternatively, I could ask students who take welding to attach longer metal legs so that the jungle gym is tall enough for adults (and children) to gather and climb inside so that they can all view the world through a spider web of triangular windows. Perhaps the metal frame could be covered in a dramatically painted and quilted fabric, creating a warm and colorful prototype of a shelter for the homeless. I dream about this jungle gym and its many varied, artistic configurations and its possible purposes. Is this an unconscious obsession, or is it the workings of conscious observation and “the creative process”?

Lewis #3 Rodion Mayne Jungle Gym Encircled with Tubes of Colored Water copy

Rodion Mayne, Jungle Gym Encircled with Tubes of Colored Water.

Lewis #4 Natalie Mayotte Jungle Gym as an Enormous Stained Glass Lamp Shade copy

Natalie Mayotte, Jungle Gym as an Enormous Stained-Glass Lamp Shade.

I feel that the unconscious, observations, and “the creative process” are all inextricably intertwined. The goal I have for my high school students is for them to re-engage their childlike curiosity, to see the potential, and to find wonder in the ordinary, to dream and to be creative!


Manon I. Lewis is an enthusiastic, “well seasoned,” high school art educator with forty-five years of experience. When not in the art room, she has had the pleasure of traveling to twelve different countries with hundreds of Boothbay Region High School students over the last twenty-five years. This educational travel includes a week-long trip with students to volunteer and teach art at Camino Seguro (Safe Passage School) in Guatemala.


Afterword by Argy Nestor, Insight/Incite Editor

March is Youth Art Month, established in 1961 at the national levela month designated to celebrate the art made by our students. For veteran art educators, celebrating is a daily occurrence interwoven in conversations and actions with our students, colleagues, parents and community members, as are advocating and promoting the importance of all learners having access to an excellent arts education. In most Maine school communities this is an essential component of teaching visual arts. It takes a village to build and expand art education programs so all students have access to excellent programs.

Long-time art teacher Manon Lewis is skilled at promoting her program every day. (Follow her on Facebook and you’ll understand.) A fond memory of Manon for me was during a time period (early 1980s) when the Maine Art Education Association secured student display space in the State House representing every corner of Maine. We were on our hands and knees to the wee hours of the morning determined to get the show up and be back in our respective classrooms teaching the next morning.


Image at top: Abandoned jungle gym.