Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why the "A" is important in "STEAM"

Recently, there was a video posted on the Ford Motor Company's Facebook page that stirred up a lot of comments from people arguing about STEAM vs STEM.  There were so many comments on the original post that I can no longer find the specific comments I intended to share here, but since they were posted in a public place, I feel it is OK for me to paraphrase and share with you.   It may help you realize how essential it is to advocate for art education, because there are still  people who truly do not understand how indispensable the arts are in our culture and in our lives. 

Here's the theme of the comment that most concerned me: The author said that he felt is was a shame that Ford was promoting STEAM over STEM, and that it was not presenting a good message for our sons and daughters.  He felt that STEM was the right answer for our children because it leads to careers that pay well.  He further indicated that people who study STEM earn more than those who study art, and that and that suggesting that art was an an equal means to a career was not substantiated by facts.

So here's where advocacy comes in.  The fact that the author of this comment feels the way he does, indicates to me that perhaps we aren't doing a good enough job explaining the "A" in STEAM.  I think we as art teachers have placed a lot of emphasis on how art teaches kids to think creatively, to use critical thinking skills, and to solve problems.  We know this is true.  But, I may be unpopular for saying this, but the truth is, we are NOT the only discipline that uses critical thinking.  Scientists and engineers also use critical thinking skills and solve problems.  But there's another element besides critical thinking/problem solving that art adds to the STEAM equation, that I do not think has been emphasized enough, even though it's something we innately (and exclusively) know.

Let's say that someone has come up with an idea for a new product, whether a fuel-efficient car with modern technological innovations, or a prosthetic limb, or a faster toaster, or a more comfortable ergonomic shoe, or even a healthier breakfast cereal.  The scientific innovations of these products are important to making us want them.  But to SELL the product, it needs more.  Image is important.  The car needs to look cool.  The toaster should look great on your kitchen counter.  The look of the prosthetic should make the wearer feel confident.  The shoe should look stylish, fashionable.  And the breakfast cereal needs packaging that will make your child want to eat it.  The artist is essential to taking the invention, the innovation, and creating the visual design, the "packaging", that makes it saleable.  It takes that technologically advanced car and makes it beautiful, or sexy, or sleek, or fun-looking, etc.  And beyond the product itself, the artist is also the person who creates the advertising design that makes the public crave the product.

If you are doing STEAM projects in your school, go ahead and work on the problem solving, the critical thinking, and the innovation.  But don't stop there.  Remind your students that they are artists, and that if they are creating an innovation, that their job is also going to be to sell it.  The scientist, the engineer, and the mathematician expect the design artist to work on the packaging and advertising.  For the "A" in STEAM, our students need to go further than the conceptual part of innovation, and learn the design skills necessary to sell their innovations.  Don't forget the visual part of art!  Teach your students the importance of creating the visual design of their inventions.  If you are doing a STEAM event, make product design and advertising a part of the event, after the problem-solving part of the challenges have been completed.  I think here's where parents and community will begin to  understand how essential art is to innovation.

Back to the original comment.   Remember, the author said that STEM was preferred to STEAM because it leads to careers that pay well.  I have two thoughts about that.  First of all, he's just plain wrong.  Design careers can be lucrative.  Not all artists are poor and starving!  Second of all, we need to remember that career decisions aren't just about which career will make you richer.  For example, I chose to be a teacher, knowing that a teaching career wouldn't be the highest paying option.  But we don't strictly choose our life careers by which one earns more.  We find the career that best suits our skills, our personalities, our lifestyles, etc.  We who choose to teach do so because it is what we are, what we do; our choice to teach is a noble and meaningful choice, even if we will never be paid what an attorney or a doctor or an engineer will earn.  Everything is not always about money!! 

Thanks for reading my ramblings.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we can get people to better understand the importance of that A in STEAM!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Movies as Advocacy, for Youth Art Month and beyond!

It's Youth Art Month!  Showcase all of the great things you are doing for Youth Art Month in your classroom or district, while advocating for your program through a video.  It does not have to be a long video or take you three weeks to put together.  


Here are some tips to create a great movie in no time at all!
  • Take a lot of photos and some sort video clips.  
    • This can be on your phone, ipad, or video camera.  
  • Upload the photos and video clips to your computer.
  • Open your favorite movie-making program.  
    • My favorites are iMovie and Adobe Spark.
      • iMovie is on Apple products only, but can be used on any device.
      • Adobe Spark is a free internet-based program
    • Both programs are easy to use.
  • Once you have chosen a program, import the photographs and video clips.  
  • Drop them where you would like them.
  • You can add text and music if you'd like.  
  • Export and SHARE. 
    • Share your videos with us! @youthartmonthNY on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Ideas for your movie:
  • YAM in your school
  • How students feel about the Arts and why they are important.
  • Why is YAM important?
    • Ask students, teachers, and administrators.
  • YAM in the Community
  • Students working..  They are the reason for YAM!
  • Special projects and ideas in celebration of  YAM.
  • YAM in your community.  How the community or schools partner together to support YAM.

 Today's blog post is written by blog contributor Heather McCutcheon.   Heather has submitted articles for Artful Advocate blog posts before.  Thanks, Heather, for another great contribution!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Another Fab Five, just in time for Youth Art Month!

5, 4, 3, 2, 1!  Here we are, standing on the doorstep of Youth Art Month!!  Are you stressed over time?  Still need some last minute project and event ideas for elementary students?  Why not jump right in with these 5 super ideas:

1 NYSATA  Youth Art Month Bookmark lesson -
Perfect for elementary school students to distribute in your building and at the local library.

2 Create book art sculptures (handmade books or recycled folded books) for a library display.  Perfect for older students.

3 Ask your students to write a short statement about why art is important to them... and have them read these statements daily, during morning announcements.

4 Read a story about an artist each day (choose one that's grade appropriate).  Example: Action Jackson, Linnea in Monet's Garden, When Pigasso Met Mootise, Ish, The Dot, The Boy Who Drew Birds, Uncle Andy's, etc.  Hook literature right in with the art skills, concepts, or media you are currently working on.  It is a perfect way to meet Common Core Reading standards in your classroom, and remember, discussing works of art on view can count as visual text.

5 Make a giant March is Youth Art Month banner to hang in the lobby; have students and staff sign it.  Hang student work all around it. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Vacation Week "Fabulous Five" Advocacy Ideas

It is vacation week for many, and at least a long weekend for most (well, I suppose the long weekend is over by the time you'll be reading this)!  If you are off this week, use the time to rest and recharge, as Youth Art Month is less than two weeks away!!!  If you cannot get away for a vacation,  use some of these virtual art trip ideas for your students to experience artwork from around the world, and some from home.

Visit an online museum, or build your collection of artworks. (Art Institute of Chicago has a "build your own 3-D collection" feature.)

Host an Artist in Residence Program during March, invite in community artists to demonstrate and/or talk to students.  Local museums nearby?  Set up a visit, and  if area artists have work present, try to arrange it so they can be present to discuss work with your students.

Do you love the work of George Rodrigue and his "Blue Dog"?  Take a virtual trip to New Orleans via Google and step foot in his gallery on Royal Street.  For elementary students, read Why is Blue Dog Blue? and create some mini Blue Dogs for the local humane society.

Create a Photo Story of a collection of work by an artist; include some biographical material, title slides, and music.  Display on your school web-page.

Cannot get to a museum?  Build a "Gallery Walk" - five famous works of art and gallery tags.  Challenge students to visit the gallery, observe quietly and write a "Twitter" style short critique/statement on Post-It notes as they choose their favorite work.  Post the notes and use different color Post-Its for classes or grades.  Do an informal poll to see what the top artwork is and announce to the school (beset at elementary level).  A great way to teach gallery manners, too!  Added benefit - have  the staff and teachers choose their favorites to write about as well!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Art Advocacy Fabulous 5, and a Bonus!

Here's this week's 'Fabulous Five'!

1  Plan a statewide postcard exchange with another school, or create artist trading cards to swap.  Consider too ... a postcard campaign to state legislators about the value of art education, and combine that with a lesson on the First Amendment.

2  Student-designed placemats and table tents can be used by local restaurants.  Challenge older students in Graphic Design to choose an area establishment in need of a 'makeover' and design a new logo/menu/etc.  Invite the owners, and any contacts you have in advertising, to choose the strongest design and discuss importance of branding to create market awareness. 

3  Start to hang student work of the week in the principal's office/main office area of your building and in the administrative offices (superintendent, etc).  Add in the Standards, your Essential Question and student reflection, for a reminder of the importance of the art program to the school curriculum that cannot be ignored!

4  Planning a YAM show?  Select an 'honorary chairperson' from local, well-known artists, or 'local celebrities' who support the arts.  Give them an honorary certificate and invite them to your show opening. 

5  Be sure your Media Advisories are out this week for any show in March - and that info is up on your school website, and community calendars at your local TV and radio stations.

 🙌  Bonus Idea!
Approach local doctor's offices and medical facilities to hang student artwork in waiting rooms and public areas.  Many are more than happy to give your space and welcome student work as a point of conversation for staff and patients!
*Perhaps your students can even do artwork that relates to the area where it is being displayed.  For example, I have a project that I do with my students that uses toothpaste as a resist for batik.  What if I asked the dentist for a donation of toothpaste samples, and then displayed the finished work in her office?  What a fun idea!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

30th Annual Arts Advocacy Day!

I of course know that March is Youth Art Month, but I just discovered that the 30th Annual Arts Advocacy Day takes place in Washing ton D.C. on March 20-21, 2017.  You can read all about it here:

Monday, February 6, 2017

Start your week with the Artful Advocate Fab Five!

Long winter days need some special events built in to move them along.  These ideas lend themselves perfectly to classroom curriculum, build the concept of teamwork and planning, and can become great advocacy PR pieces for the local newspaper.  The old saying " You have to be a hero in your community first" is so true in art advocacy.

Does Valentine's Day excitement have you feeling blue rather than red?  Create a school-wide UNITY event based on the work of Jim Dine and his Hearts series in multiple media for K-5.  Tie in with PE, as many schools celebrate Heart Month with different event challenges.  Dovetail with classroom teachers talking about the need for good nutrition, and organize a healthy snack day for all.  Need ideas?  Check out Pinterest under Jim Dine for exciting lessons. 

Hungry for more?  Older students (grades 6-12) can do the Empty Bowls project and join forces with community food banks in raising money. Tie in a nutrition study with Family and Consumer Science classes and have local grocery stores donate dried soup ingredients to package up in Ziploc bags to be auctioned off with bowls (if you cannot do the actual meal event). 

Partner with neighboring school districts and set up a traveling art show of 5-6 pieces that move from school to school.  Great way to collaborate for the arts and showcase not only your students, but those in your area!

Using the food theme, combine with a study of Andy Warhol, and do a community service canned soup food drive. Use Andy's Soup Can series and the theme of "You CAN make a difference" and create a sculptural installation of the donations (in a safe area, of course) with recognition for those who contributed, and help stock up the local food pantry at a time of year when things may be scarce.  Involve your Art Club, Honor Society, Student Council, or K-Kids (Kiwanis organization for younger students). 

Budget time for many is getting close.  Schedule a time slot at the next Board of Education meeting, and share with them the interdisciplinary value of art and how you are preparing students with valuable 21st century skills.  Bring students along with examples of their work, and invite all of your parents who support the art program!

Again, thank you to Donnalyn Shuster for contributing another terrific Fabulous Five!