Creative Learning – Abbey Arts Presents, Seattle (Fremont Abbey Arts Center)

    Upper Fremont at 43rd
    On the #5 bus line and short walk to E line

    4272 Fremont Ave North
    Seattle, WA 98103

  • Contact Us

  • donate




  • Thanks to Tableau Software

    Thanks for supporting the Arts!
  • Bar Sponsors

    Thanks to Two Beers, Seattle Cider, Georgetown, Wilridge Winery, Sound Spirits, Ninkasi, Proletariat for their amazing support.
  • 4culture

    Thanks for supporting the Arts!



    Creative Learning

    How does creativity & the arts in a community setting actually improve our brain function, and thereby our lives? On these pages we’ll be exploring this topic in more depth, but we also encourage you to attend a local concert or arts experience and feel the effect for yourself.

    See our Tumblr – (Submissions welcome)

    See our Pinterest –

    Related TED talks:
    Your brain on improv | more coming soon…


    And here are some interesting articles and resources to check out:


    Inner Inspiration or Travel: What’s Your Poison?

    “The source of inspiration is as mysterious as it can be elusive for artists. For some, the muse lies within; it is no less than one’s inner ability to spot and utilize elements from one’s surroundings (regardless how rich in or devoid of ‘inspirational qualities) or memories, to create art. For others, the environment and circumstances surrounding the artist are at least as influential as is their raw talent. The issue of travel highlights the polar points of view in the nature/nurture debate. Some opine that it is elitist to deem travel necessary for broadening the mind, while others believe there is no greater education, no better way to expand our horizons and increase our understanding of the world and human nature, than through travel. In this post we turn to a select list of quotes by renowned writers, artists and writers, on the value of travel. By opening our hearts and minds to the great unknown, they say, we discover that the world houses a beauty that is unimaginable and definitely worth fighting to preserve, perhaps through the only way we know how to: our art.


    • Travel vs Narcissism: For many artists and musicians, finishing a determined collection or composition can seem all-consuming, to the point that they can cease to appreciate life outside creation. Yet creativity needs to be fed with new stimuli, experiences and outlooks and if travel guarantees one thing, it is discovery. As a Moorish proverb states, “He who does not travel does not know the value of men”.
    • Travel vs Routine: Travel enables us to look at life through a new lens, to appreciate the wonder that surrounds us in everyday life, but which routine and duty blind us to. As British travel writer, Freya Stark said, “Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” Travel can also open an artist’s eyes in far more practical ways, for instance, by exposing them to different degrees and tonalities of light. This is one of the main reasons for the burgeoning popularity of art cruises, in which budding painters and photographers often choose to sail along the Mediterranean to capture the unique intensity and hue of the sunlight. This fascination is not new; Monet himself was known to be obsessed with the warm climate and golden sun of the south of Europe, which was said to inspire some of his greatest works.
    • Travel vs Fear: Travel challenges the artist to accept that fear (of failure, of losing one’s inspiration, of getting stuck in one artistic style) is part of the creative process. Traveling the world essentially forces us to let go of our instinct to control every aspect of our life or our work, since it opens us to so many surprising encounters.  “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life” wrote Jack Kerouac. Going out into the world is in essence what we do since the moment of our birth.
    • Travel and the Return to Innocence: It was also Freya Stark who said that ““People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” In a way, the leisurely nature of most types of travel enables us to pause and truly observe and drink in the humor and uniqueness of the human beings around us. Chance experiences with kind, generous souls restore our faith in others and also provide untold inspiration for photographs, sculptures, paintings and even musical compositions. For many of us, a chance journey has changed our lives, given rise to a friendship that has lasted a lifetime, enabled us to meet the love our life in the most unexpected of places and even led to a change of residence to a country whose seduction has simply been too powerful. As artists, we must be innocent, courageous, above all, adventurous. Few opportunities are as adept at allowing us to be all these things, as travel.”

      ~ Written by Abbey volunteer contributor, Claire Holt:


    Playing the Way to Success

    Playing the Way to Success: Music and Cognitive Development

    New article by Abbey volunteer contributor, Claire Holt:

    The arts play an integral role in the lives of many people. As those who have connections with arts centers are well aware, dance, art, and music can play an important part in the learning process of children and adults. They also offer a useful therapeutic channel for managing a range of disorders including depression and addiction. The links between external influences and cognitive development have been of interest to scientists for centuries. Knowing how various stimuli affect the brain can potentially mean uncovering a perfect cocktail of experiences to ensure the optimum development of a child. One of the most exciting areas of research in contemporary neuroscience is the mysterious world of music. One of the most ancient and enigmatic forms of human communication, participating in music in early childhood may have lifelong cognitive benefits.

    Neural Pathways

    Neuroscientists have revealed that the earlier a child starts to learn a musical instrument, the stronger their neural pathways become. In particular, starting music before the age of seven results in stronger connections between the motor regions of the brain. This means that children who play musical instruments from an early age are better at planning and carrying out movements than those who have no form of musical training. The study, which was carried out between Concordia University and the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University, suggests that there is a “sensitive period” between the ages of six and eight when learning to play a musical instrument causes the musical training to interact with the normal development of the brain. Far from being temporary, these changes produce long-lasting differences in both motor abilities and brain structure. An enhanced framework is developed in the minds of music learning children, and this is something that they can build upon for the rest of their lives.

    Golden Moment

    That the six to eight window seems to be a golden chance tells us much about the importance of the early years on long-term cognitive development. The Concordia-MGill study found that professional adult musicians who had begun to learn their instruments after the age of eight did not have the enhanced neural pathways of those who began them earlier. This shows that parts of the brain’s anatomy are more sensitive to change at different times in its development. This fits with what we already know, or suspect, about child neural development. In terms of language acquisition it has long been suspected that there is a crucial “language window” that if missed means a person will be unable to form grammatical units such as sentences. The evidence from this was most disturbingly observed in the case of Genie, a child who was kept in complete social isolation from the age of twenty months until the age of thirteen years and seven months. Having never been exposed to language, Genie never learned anything beyond basic grammar. After a brief period where with the help of doctors she attempted to learn how to speak during her teenage years, Genie, now aged 55, is unable to use any form of language. Genie’s situation showed that there must be a critical period during the development of the brain for language acquisition, and that trying to force the brain to develop the required pathways at a later age would be fruitless.

    Playing to the Whole Mind

    Evidence that music affects several important aspects of cognitive development in very young children continues to mount. A study published by the DANA Foundation studied under-privileged three to five year olds, and found that several diverse aspects of cognition were improved. The study of 88 children found that above everything else studying music improves concentration, and that this enables other aspects of cognitive development to accelerate. Non-verbal IQ, numeracy, and spatial cognition all improved considerably in the music groups compared to the regular Head Start and control groups. Again, this suggests that music connects with the developing brain in a way that other forms of interaction (such as language, playing, and observing) do not. This unique connection between music and the mind is also something that has been explored as a way of dealing with complex cognitive and psychological disorders such as addiction. Knowing how to help a drug addict is one of the great challenges of modern medicine, and music therapy is a psychotherapeutic treatment that has achieved considerable results. Studies show that there are ways of beginning the process without causing harm to the addict, but that there are many different way that the path to recovery will take from that point. Music creates sensorimotor and emotional experiences, according to researchers, and this connects with areas of the brain that other methods are unable to reach, making it a good option for many people on the path to recovery.

    Mathematical Workout

    Despite studies, much of what we suspect about the links between music and cognitive development remains somewhat apocryphal. For instance, there is a phenomenon known as the “Mozart Effect”, which refers to a range of supposed benefits that result from listening to the music of Mozart. The 600 works composed by Mozart particularly mathematical, and rather like a fractal they have a symmetry that enables perfect division of each piece of notation. This is something that supporters of the Mozart Effect believe that the brain is unconsciously aware of, meaning that to listen to Mozart’s music is akin to having a subconscious mathematical workout. Although the theory remains controversial, this is supposedly beneficial for babies and children, for teenagers, and also for recovering addicts and people struggling with anger management issues.

    Ethical Dilemmas 

    Exactly how this may work, however, remains unclear. Despite huge leaps forwards in neuroscience in recent years, the brain remains a mysterious place. Studying the development of the human mind is an ethical minefield, meaning that studies are often very limited by what they can achieve. Gone are the days when those with an interest in cognitive development could take a group of babies and leave them on a desert island with deaf nursemaids in order to see what happened, which is what the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II did in the 13th century. For that reason it will (thankfully) never be possible to raise a group of children in an environment completely devoid of music in order to more fully examine the effect of music on their cognitive development. For now, it is enough to know that music is a method of learning that seems to be very beneficial to children and adults, and that age is no barrier to experiencing the positive results.