Popular TEDx Talk is About Talking Without Talking

Art instructor/art-school founder Ginger Huebner says there are ways other than words. Photo by Brenden Almand Photography, theProPortrait.com

Talking through conflict is supposed to help. But Ginger Huebner, founding director of  Roots + Wings School of Art and Design, observes that more words often cause more problems. 

“It can get ugly really quick,” she notes. “Someone hears something that makes them feel offended. They close down and stop listening or wanting to talk about it anymore.” To create a path forward through that all-too-common impasse, Huebner devised a communication tool that doesn’t rely on the inadequacy of words. In lieu of verbiage, she uses artmaking as a platform for communicating. 

For example, she leads “community portrait” exercises, where small groups collaboratively create. “I will often use a word or a phrase to work from, like ‘equity.’ Then I’ll give everyone maybe three art mediums like collage, pastels, and colored pencils to use to visually express themselves while we ponder the word.” 

What begins to happen, she says, “is a very unconscious thing — but you start to realize how much more open you are to listen to someone else’s story, because [not talking] kind of takes the pressure off of each of you. The focus is on the object or piece of artwork, which naturally inspires curiosity and questions.”

Art students create in a “community portrait” exercise.

Indeed, the magic of a slant approach is that it prompts a more meaningful exchange, ideally without heightened drama, friction, and discord. 

Huebner’s TEDx Asheville talk about the process — which she shares with individuals, families, schools, business teams, community and faith-based organizations, and others — is titled “Conversations Beyond Words: Translating life through imagery + color.” The presentation was recently selected for TEDx Editor’s Choice recognition and inclusion on the official TED.com website. This summer, Huebner is opening a new studio and workshop space at the Roots + Wings Creative Campus, where she will host events including Create + Connect Workshops.

No particular skills are required to participate. “You may think you’re not creative, but it doesn’t matter if you haven’t done art since kindergarten,” says Huebner. “It is clearly still there; it doesn’t go away. We just have to have ways to discover it and share it – to see one another’s truths.”

Ginger Huebner, Roots + Wings School of Art and Design (573 Fairview Road, Oakley). To learn more, visit gingerhuebner.com, rootsandwingsarts.com, her Instagram page (@gingerhuebnerart), or listen to her TEDx Talk

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