Friday, January 10, 2014

STEAM Picks Up...Steam! (and Adieu to Art Advocado)

3D Printed Vitruvian Man
3D Printed Vitruvian Man via Flickr user Dot San

Arts advocates have been pounding the drums to add an "A" to STEM - that's Arts to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - for years now; I've written about it on this very blog (and on other blogs!) It seems that STEAM is now picking up, er, steam: the Wall Street Journal published an article describing STEAM's emerging prominence across the education sector*, from a bipartisan STEAM caucus in Congress to the New York City public schools to Stanford University to Sesame Street. "It's about giving the arts the proper significance," said Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president for global education and research at Sesame Workshop (which produces Sesame Street. "We're very proud that we have a STEAM curriculum and it's integrated—it's not an add-on." 

In other STEAM news, science news service has an interview with Jay Young, a former math teacher, University of Houston College of Education Ph.D. student, and STEAM advocate. Young is currently researching an after-school program that utilizes STEAM. "Creative thinking and problem solving are essential in the practice of math and science," he said. "Incorporating art into math and science will not only help students become more creative and better problem solvers, it will help them understand math and science better."

Meanwhile, as STEAM continues to build support, a possible humanities crisis is brewing. The New York Times reported on sharp declines in humanities majors in recent years and the fact that some students are choosing sciences over the humanities for their major.  More worryingly, the staff of the Harvard Crimson published an editorial celebrating the decline of the humanities in favor of STEM subjects. I won't go into debunking the editorial here other than to say that the authors, while arguing for the demise of the humanities, have ironically proved we need the humanities more than ever.

While the decline in interest in humanities subjects is troubling, I think the recent uptick in both interest in and adoption of STEAM shows great promise for both the arts and the sciences. STEAM shows that it doesn't have to be either-or with the arts and sciences; the two compliment each other quite well. Nowhere was this more clear to me than at an exhibition I recently saw at the Museum of Arts and Design. Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital surveys how artists, designers, and architects are utilizing cutting-edge technologies such as 3-D printing in their creations. From prosthetic limbs to jewelry based on complex mathematical theories to sculptures by Frank Stella and Roxy Paine, none of the objects in the exhibition would have been possible without a synthesis of art and science. If what I saw at MAD is any indication, the future of STEAM is very bright indeed.

On a programming note, I'm sorry to report this will be my last post on Art Advocado. I love writing this blog but my day job makes it difficult to devote the time I know it deserves. I will continue to advocate through the arts both professionally and on my own time. (Museums Advocacy Day, I am coming for you, humanities crisis or not!). I know all you art teachers will too - whether it is in your work sharing and creating with your students

This blog will remain live as an advocacy resource. I highly recommend you check out Curator's Corner and School Arts Room, which are both updated regularly and have terrific content whether you are an art teacher, an artist, an art historian, an advocate, or just a lover of art and art history. And for continued advocacy news, I recommend keeping up with Createquity and ARTSblog, and subscribing to daily art news digest You've Cott Mail.

For now, adieu, and keep advocating!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Inspired Your Career in the Visual Arts? The Grey Lady Wants To Know

Art Room Still Life
Art Room Still Life by Alexa Clark. Image via Flickr, courtesy of Alexa Clark.

What inspired you to become an art teacher? The New York Times will soon publish a piece by Holland Cotter on his his path to becoming an esteemed art critic for the Grey Lady. The paper has put out a call for stories from visual arts professionals of all stripes on how you came to your career. They want to hear from you whether you are an art teacher, a museum security guard, a photographer, a painter.

Though my family was more than supportive of my choice to pursue a career in the arts, others have faced seemingly insurmountable odds to pursue their passion in this field. That is one reason that the arts are a great place to work. You may become a banker just for the money, but if you're in the arts, it's more than likely that you are in the field for the love of it.

I can't wait to see what The Times publishes for this feature, and maybe even one story will demonstrate to a budding artist or curator (or art teacher) that their dream is not so crazy after all, and a dream worth pursuing.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy (Art) Teacher Appreciation Week!

My take on the "Keep Calm" meme, via

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Of course every week should be Teacher Appreciation Week (and especially Art Teacher Appreciation Week), but why not pick one to celebrate and give everyone the warm-and-fuzzies? Following are some inspiring stories that may make you want to run and hug the closest art teacher.

Trading Security Guards for Art Teachers
Talk about art teacher appreciation! If this doesn't convince the world of the power of an art education, I'm not sure what will. MSN reports that a Roxbury, MA K-8 principal turned his school around through the power of art - or really, through the power of art teachers. When Andrew Bott took the position of principal at Orchard Gardens, the K-8 school was known as a "career-killer" after burning through 6 principals in seven years. But Bott injected life back into the school by thinking outside the box and reinvesting funds for security guards into art teacher salaries. Longer school hours and public recognition for exceptional art projects (or "shout-outs") have also helped re-invigorate the school. Principals, are you listening? (Thanks to Davis Publications staff for sharing this story!)

Teaching Art to the Down-And-Out
This next story is a little dark, but very inspiring. All art teachers have had more than their share of difficult students or classes (or so I presume, having once been a student myself!). William Murray spent over thirty years teaching art to one of the toughest crowds - prisoners. Murray was Minnesota's first full-time prison art teacher, teaching art to the incarcerated at Stillwater Correctional Facility in Bayport from 1974 until his recent retirement. Murray's stories from prison are not exactly replete with unbridled joy and redemption; the pictures he paints (both in his art and in his stories from prison) are rather grim. Despite this, I was touched by the humanity of Murray's work in the prisons. And there are sweet anecdotes too - one prisoner painted a Matisse-style portrait on cardboard. (On a related note, actor Tim Robbins recently spoke in support of prison arts programs at a hearing in Los Angeles. If you're interested, the NEA has more information on the arts in corrections.)

Art Teachers Are Doing It For Themselves
Finally, I recommend checking out this Kickstarter project from a New Jersey art teacher trying to reach the Arctic Circle for a unique expedition this fall. Laura Petrovich-Cheney has been accepted to a residency program in the Svalbard archipelago, between Norway and the North Pole. Her mission in attending this residency is to integrate her experience there into her elementary art teaching classes, where many of her students are disadvantaged. Petrovich-Cheney is obviously lucky to have this opportunity in the first place but the project demonstrates a devotion to her students and an interesting perspective on integrating environmental issues into the art classroom.  I hope she reaches her goal!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Oobleck Alert! The Brooklyn Museum of Science and Art Makes Its Way

Oobleck: a non-Newtonian "fluid"
Oobleck! This weird gooey stuff is the centerpiece of the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Science's first pop-up, coming this Saturday. Image by Flickr user Mrs. Dr. The Ivan.

A few months ago I posted a tidbit about a proposal for an art and science museum in North Brooklyn (my home!) - and it was very popular with you, my loyal readers! I'm happy to say that it looks like this exciting proposal is moving forward.

Meredith Hoffman of DNAinfo reports that a planning group has identified sources of funding and created a plan for a 100,000 square foot center, deemed the Brooklyn Museum of Science and Art. "It's not just a science or art museum," according to architect Darrick Borowski, "and it's not just crafty exhibits for kids explaining science. It's scientists and artists coming up with ideas and exploring issues together." Borowski also notes that the North Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint, where the museum will be located, is a great location due to the number of families as well as artists and creative workers.

An exact place for the museum has not been identified yet, and it likely would not open until 2019 - but in the meantime planners will host pop-up events in the community. The first event is coming up this Saturday, May 11, in Brooklyn's McCarren Park. As part of the evironmental festival Go Green Greenpoint, a pool of oobleck - a material that is both solid and liquid, made of water and cornstarch - will be placed in McCarren's playground, so visitors can experience "walking on water." Oobleck papier mache activities will also be on-site for the art component.

For more updates on the Brooklyn Museum of Science and Art, check out their Facebook page! I'm looking forward to watching this project take shape right in my own neighborhood.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hope Springs: Happy News for Arts Advocates

Supporting Member Gallery Tour: "Color Balance"
A docent discusses a work by Alma Thomas (behind) at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Photo courtesy of the Nasher Museum of Art Flickr. 

Happy nearly spring! Most of us "sprung forward" this weekend, meaning we'll be out of the winter doldrums soon (though I know my colleagues this blog's sponsor, Davis Publications, may not feel that way, having received almost two feet of snow a few days ago. Sorry guys.) In honor of the most hopeful time of year, here are several uplifting stories that will make arts advocates smile. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

What the Arts Can Do in the Wake of Tragedy

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Memorial at Penn State University for the Sandy Hook Shootings. via pennstatealive on Flickr
We in the arts...have the great and good gift of dealing with beauty, with joy and hope...We do this in a world that is sometimes unimaginably ugly.   What can we now do?  Nothing more than to keep doing what we do; to continue to be part of what makes life good, what makes it worthwhile, what gives hope and joy and brings smiles to faces.

I highly recommend The Further Erosion of American Innocence from Barry's Blog  His beautiful and thoughtful post on what the arts can do in the wake of a tragedy like the shooting at Sandy Hook was moving and even comforting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Art Advocado Arts Roundup: The Arts Go Gangnam Style

MoMA Staff go Gangnam Style in support of Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei.
Via MoMA's Facebook page

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Before your tryptophan-induced food coma sets in here are a few arts and advocacy links, from kids' artistic interpretations of the news to art world Gangnam Style.

  • I recently found out about Kids Draw the News and thought you might interested in this fun project coordinated by the New York Times' City Room blog. Every so often City Room will put out a call for drawings of a specific current event. Past topics have included Hurricane Sandy, traffic school for cyclists, and my personal favorite, Mitik the baby walrus (who recently arrived in my home borough of Brooklyn). The feature is open to kids under 12 and you don't have to be from the New York area to submit. It's fascinating see how kids interpret each news story - it demonstrates how art develops critical thinking  and analytical skills. And many of the drawings are an absolute hoot.

  • This coming April cellist Yo-Yo Ma will give the Nancy Hanks Lecture at Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. The Hanks lecture is the keynote of Arts Advocacy Day; past speakers include Alec Baldwin, Wynton Marsalis, and Arthur Schlesinger. (Arts Advocacy Day is April 8-9, 2013 - save the date!)

Happy Turkey Day!