The fifth Conference of ECHA was held at the beautiful building of Palais Ferstel in Vienna, Austria, from 19 to 22 October 1996.

Palais Ferstel (photo by Florian Prischl)

The main theme of the conference was ‘Creativity and Culture: Talent Development in the Arts and Sciences.’ Organizers were the Österreichischer Kultur-Service (ÖKS, Austrian Cultural Service) and of course the ECHA.

The conference was held under the auspices of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education and Cultural Affairs and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Science, Transport, and the Arts.

Prof. Dr. Christiane Spiel

“Traditionally, creativity has been linked to the arts and the sciences. But in the last decades, it has become more and more an integral part of the job profile of many professions. It is therefore the intention of the conference to bring together not only scientists, artists and teachers, but also politicians and business persons of different cultures from all over the world, in order to discuss how creativity might best be promoted.” (Christiane Spiel, Chair, Introduction Program Book Vienna 1996)

The conference was opened by Elisabeth Gehrer, Federal Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs, and by a lecture by Howard Gardner’s (Harvard, USA) “Creativity and Talent: A ‘Multiple Intelligences’ Perspective”.

Howard Gardner, Vienna 1996

“Creativity and culture were illuminated from three main perspectives: family and genetics, schools and educational systems, and society and lifelong learning. The 213 presentations covered a very wide range, including theoretical and methodological papers, presentations of empirical research, various school projects, biographical historical research, programme presentations and dance performance. “
(High Ability Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998)

Keynote speakers at the conference were Horst Seidler (Austria), Erika Landau (Israel) and Anders K. Ericsson (USA). In total 387 participants from 37 countries from all over the world attended the conference. The highest number came from Austria, followed by Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, USA, Russia and France, but there were also participants from less expected countries like Jordan, Peru and Taiwan.

There were 213 contributions, of which 6 keynotes, 9 invited symposia, 9 workshops, 16 thematic sessions, 63 posters, 3 individual presentations and 6 special events.  

During the opening ceremony , 2 young sisters (8 and 10 years old) from Taipeh, Taiwan, violin students at the University for Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna, gave a performance. Joan Freeman presented an overview of the history of ECHA and Franz J. Mönks, as re-elected President of ECHA, gave an outlook into his future.

The social programme was very nice and diverse as well. For example there was a visit to an art exhibition at the Bank Austria Kunstforum, which showed master pieces by Degas, Cezannes and Picasso from a Swiss private collection, and a dinner at a typical Viennese ‘Heurigen’. A ‘Heurigen’, also called a ‘Buschenschank’ is a place to have a good – Viennese or Austrian - meal with nice wine in a homely environment.

“I have very nice memories on the 1996 ECHA Conference in Vienna. It was a very fruitful and constructive cooperation between the Federal Ministry of Education, the Federation of Austrian Industries and single researchers as Manfred Wagner from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and me. As educational psychologist doing research in the field of giftedness I was asked to take over the presidency of the conference. The very successful conference took place in a wonderful historical building in the Inner City of Vienna and the many European and international participants got their lunch at the famous Café Central.

I have two specific memories on the conference: The first one is somewhat curious. Except one keynote and one invited symposium all speakers at the conference came either from the scientific or practical field of education. And as usual – researchers and practitioners are committed and trustable people – they were present to give their lectures and present their posters. This was not the case for the small group of invited artists. Neither the keynote speaker (a famous Austrian architect) nor the speakers at the symposium appeared at the conference except the organizer Manfred Wagner although we have been in contact with them continuously and they already had promised to come. My conclusion for the future was: never invite an artist to such an event.

The second memory is on the scientific follow up of the conference. In 1998 we published a very nice special issue with me as editor in High Ability Studies on Creativity and I continued to work on creativity with a colleague I have invited and met personally for the first time at the 1996 ECHA Conference in Vienna.”
(Christiane Spiel, Chair of the Conference)

Abstracts book cover Vienna 1996