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 Phys.org 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!