Message from the Director

Few things can jolt me out of my bleary morning routine, but a recent NPR report worked even better than the usual first cup of caffeine. 

I tuned in just as radio correspondent Joe Palca was interviewing Lonnie Love, head of the manufacturing systems research group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, a U.S. Department of Energy lab that explores transformative and visionary solutions. Love and his team developed a mega 3-D printer with which they were able to build a car in less than a week, in collaboration with a start-up venture. Here’s the program excerpt that struck me:

PALCA: Love told me that in a way, these new printers pose an interesting problem.

LOVE: If you can think it, you can create it. So from an engineering standpoint, that’s challenging because most engineers think linearly. They think in straight lines, round holes.

PALCA: He says future engineers will need to think more like artists—people who can imagine new shapes in three dimensions.

LOVE: That’s one of the big challenges—is finding those talented kids that can bring art and design together.

PALCA: Love thinks he can convince kids that a career in manufacturing is about as cool and cutting-edge as you could possibly ask for. 

What a nice eye-opener: even the leading thinkers in the once nuts-and bolts world of tooling and manufacturing recognize that artists—and the visionary thinking they bring—are now critical to our future. 

Yet educational advocacy—and funding!—in Silicon Valley remains dominated by the exclusive science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) matrix. STEM is just not enough. This NPR report on futuristic cars surprisingly gave clear evidence for the “full-STEAM ahead” approach: the necessary insertion of art into the educational equation. As Love suggested, we may not otherwise be able to see the bigness of the future.

Many of you know from experience that the arts encourage not just imagination, enjoyment, and self-expression, but also problem-solving skills, cognitive range, teamwork, spatial and relational understanding, design thinking, and (to state the very obvious) creativity.

Today, seventy-two percent of business leaders say that creativity is the first skill they seek in new hires. According to the Arts Education Partnership, students who have an arts-rich education perform better on assessments of creativity than do students who receive little or no arts education.

SJMA is the largest provider of in-school arts education in Santa Clara County. The Museum is a firm believer in the greater benefits of STEAM, which engenders the very syncretic thinking seen on the factory floor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Two years ago, SJMA piloted a new integrated arts education program that advances high-level thinking skills and merges the arts with learning in other disciplines. For the 2014–15 school year, for example, the Museum’s integrated arts program in elementary schools, (called Sowing Creativity), brought together teaching artists and teaching scientists to implement curriculum that advanced processes of critical inquiry used by artists and by scientists. Next year, Sowing Creativity will both continue this arts/science track and develop a new integrated arts/math curriculum.

At SJMA, art is a gateway to ideas that turn in many directions. You see this behind the scenes in the Museum’s school programs and in the wide-ranging exhibitions in the galleries. I hope that you, too, like Mr. Love, will take notice of the ways art and artists help spur us to envision a world far beyond the status quo.

Susan Krane
Oshman Executive Director

P.S. Not a member of SJMA yet? Just click here.