Keeping Art in Education | Jonathan Baker | TEDxWenatcheeED



hello when I say the word art what do you think of maybe you think about music maybe you think about performance art or the fine arts like drawing sculpture and painting maybe you think about the graphic arts or design and architecture for me when I hear the word art I think about all those topics but now as an artist and designer myself what I really think about are the individuals behind the skills the people who had the open and creative minds to see the world in new and unexpected ways the original problem solvers who weren't afraid to take risk and invent something new for me this all started with a love to draw the simple act of putting pen to paper and that passion being supported through my 12 years of public school education this evolved into a life that was productive lucrative and fulfilling but our children aren't getting that chance today by the end of this year a quarter of our national public schools will not have art education this is a terrible statistic and that's why I'm here to talk with you today I want to talk with you about keeping art education in our schools and why it's inclusion is so important so let me paint you a picture I'm an only child I grew up in southern suburban New Hampshire my dad worked in manufacturing my mom often worked two jobs they were not artists by the broadest definition of the world word and I reason I bring this up is to point out that I had no special advantage I didn't I wasn't handed in an art career my parents weren't rich I went to public school I was completely average in academics even more average in sports but when I got to go to that art room the whole world opened up that was my place I went from average to extraordinary and I don't know why it just connected art was the glue that put all the other subjects together for me I remember in sixth grade asking my English teacher if I could Ellis trait a book report she said yes but seriously who I wanted to be an illustrator I wanted to be a children's book author I wanted to be a graphic novelist this is real and this got me to read that book cover to cover and create a document that showed that so my art education in elementary school in my public school sent me up really well all those fundamental skills transferred perfectly into high school so I went to a public high school where we had three full-time art teachers and an architect Yeah right my fine art teacher a fine artist himself really allowed me to master the fine arts drawing painting and sculpture and then when I went over to architecture I was able to take the seeing and drawing to drawing and building and that combination of events really influenced the rest of my life this set me up perfectly for going for being the first in my family to go to college I knew I was very good the technical and skill component of the arts but what I wanted was the conceptual part I wanted the art that made you stop and all I wanted to create architecture that moved you I wanted to create art with a capital a I applied and was accepted to my number one choice the Rhode Island School of Design and I spent the next four sleepless years completely saturated in Art and Design I studied a field called industrial design which is the mass production of consumer objects that is not as dry as it sounds like everything in this room was designed by someone all the chairs all your clothing the lighting the stage the walls everything had to be made I wanted to learn how to do this this seems like a fascinating field so I got taught plastics and metal and wood and composites I learned how to make everything through this education I learned about companies like IKEA and Patagonia I learned that I had a responsibility when designing these products to do in an environmentally responsible way this inspired me to apply for an internship in padagu at Patagonia at the time I didn't even know how to sew but it didn't matter I could learn the skills it was the concept of linking product to art but I ended the product to the environment that I really wanted to understand my love of the drop has of drawing drove me to be an environmentalist I grant I'd go back to school I graduate I spend the next 15 years as a freelance designer I design over 40 products for six different companies I'm awarded two patents I help these companies make tens of millions of dollars I work with athletes and scientists designing helmets to reduce concussions I become so good at computer-aided design that I work with the software developers because I pushed the program in unexpected ways that they never planned for that's what a creative mind us I when I go back to my high school every few years I tell all of those kids how powerful my ability to draw in front of my clients was they could talk to me and I could put their ideas on paper they right in front of them art made me a business man for the past six years I've been an entrepreneur and Twisp Washington I've partnered with twist works to use art as an economic engine I have ten local talented employees and together we build lifetime products in an effort to reduce our need for disposable ones I'd even like to think that I've passed this torch of weaving art into life our third year high school intern was just accepted to an Ivy League school to study design and engineering yeah I feel good from day one art was a link for me like I said it was the glue that made all the other subjects relevant it motivated me to go to school and motivating me to learn the subjects so imagine my surprise when my wife a fine artist herself in an elementary school art teacher we moved to the Methow Valley to find out there's no elementary school art teacher in fact I find out that 70% of the elementary schools in Okanagan County don't have elementary school art yeah so my advocacy of art gets out into the community I'm invited to join the board of Methow arts a local nonprofit that bridges the gap that the public schools aren't filling I mean how many of you remember having our classes in elementary school yeah that's a fair amount of people that's not happening for our kids today when actually you're doing much better than the Okanagan Valley but one in four kids in the Wenatchee Valley are not getting elementary school art education and if there's a kid like me in that class they might miss on the Opera to put it all together by the end of this year 70 percent of western states will not have elementary school art education that's over two thirds of our kids Washington ranks 45th an art school funding this is one of the most creative and ingenious places I've ever lived why why is this not around why is this not being included in our education in the late 90s the National Science Foundation started a movement called smack science math engineering and technology a few layers later a creative biologist showed up and rearranged those letters to spell stem President Obama doubles down on this initiative to give brings science technology engineering and math into the classroom I totally get it these are incredibly valid topics but at the same time art education funding plummets my alma mater sees this steps in and says hey you guys are forgetting one of the most important attributes of pulling all this stuff together and making it relevant and feeding that creative mind that's the a that's the capital a and when you put that into stem you get steam and steam can actually power ideas so if art education is so great if art education increases math scores and improves and improves English comprehension and makes happier students and increases teacher retention because you have happier students if all this good stuff happens with art why are they taking it away why would you take art out of our child's education public television Sesame Street Blue's Clues Dora the Explorer every children's book you've ever written every children's movie you've ever seen kids are first introduced to education through these mediums this is a very easy way to engage a child's mind the right side of their brain they're sponges they're ready for this why would you take art why would you take art out of our economy do you think Steve Jobs had a little bit of art education he took design and technology and put it together in a way the world has never seen I just read last night that if it wasn't for art education the Macintosh computer wouldn't have been invented Steve Jobs he created the most valuable company in American history it's valued at one trillion dollars and has a hundred and twenty-three thousand employees one of my most current favorite stories is a couple of RISD grads who graduated about 10 years after me they studied the same field industrial design but they used that creative training in a totally different way to disrupt the hotel industry they put an air mattress and their San Francisco flat and said let's rent this out as an air B&B yeah they're in their mid 30s they're billionaires at any given night there's two million happy people staying in two million other people's homes this is what a creative mind can do why would you take this out and why would you take art education out of our culture it's been with us for millions of years in fact the first mass-produced object is 2.6 million years old their arrowheads and they're scattered all over Africa there's some parts of history that are only passed through through music and song and art cave paintings there are hundreds of thousands of years old this is our only connection to history why would you take that out art works it's work since at the beginning of time and it works today heck it's made me a public speaker and I'm not here to ask you to do anything special for art I'm on it don't put it on a pedestal I'm just asking that you put it at the same playing field as all the other academics so kids can find their passion and hook to it whether that's music or biology or science or math or or dancing we need kids to find relevance art brings relevance so what can we do what you can come to events like this you can talk to your teachers your principles and your superintendents you can ask them how they use art in the classroom you can encourage them to adopt and integrated arts curriculum you can support your nonprofits like the Wenatchee art education consortium Methow arts the Washington State Art Alliance you can pressure your state reps and your senators that include more art in the curriculum these is this is your tax dollars and you can tell them how we want it spent and art belongs in our education you can challenge yourself pick up a guitar grab some watercolors with your kids see what happens let go for a minute so when you leave this afternoon I want you to take notice of all the art in your life I want you to take notes when you walk out of this room the art in the hallways the galleries show that door that pivots on the mid middle axis like the sculptures and the campus your automobile the hundreds if not thousands of graphic design signs that you will drive by on your way home all of this is art so art is good art is really good and it deserves to stay in our education if not only because it makes us happy but it is proven time after time that a life with art will result in a healthier more inclusive more resilient world thank you [Applause] you

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