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Gathering STEAM in Rhode Island
Rhode Island artists, designers, scientists, educators, business leaders and policymakers came together to celebrate the state's leadership role in advocating for the role of art and design in fostering innovation.
On September 26, artists, designers, scientists, educators, business leaders
and policymakers came together to celebrate Rhode Island’sleadership rolein advocating forthe role of art and design in fostering innovation.
The RISD-led STEM to STEAM initiative proposes putting art and design at the center of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)
education and research to spur economic progress and breakthrough innovation (STEM
+ Art = STEAM).
about STEAM before on this same spot, and meant something different,” quipped Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of
the Rhode Island Foundation, who hosted the event and panel discussion on the
former site of Providence’s rail station. Like
the sweeping changes in the 19th century, RISD’s STEAM initiative
also aims to spur an innovation revolution, create jobs, and help Rhode Island
and the nation maintain a leading edge in the global marketplace.“This
opportunity puts the arts together with education and STEM to promote a better
workforce, improve economic development and create a better Rhode Island,” he
RISD President John Maeda and Congressman Jim Langevin (RI-D) discuss the role of art and design in spurring economic development and innovation.
Congressman Jim Langevin (RI-D) kicked things off at
the event by speaking about his work in Washington, DC to educate colleagues about STEAM, and to introduce a House resolution that encourages collaboration among Federal agencies that oversee STEM education.
If heard, the resolution (H.RES.
319) would propose the creation of a STEM to STEAM council to develop a comprehensive
approach to these programs. “America has real potential to gain from this
discussion. It could be transformative for Rhode Island and the country,” he
RISD President John
Maeda spoke about the enduring power of art, and its ability to transform individuals
as well as societies. “At RISD we believe that creativity is a right,” he said.
“The studio practice model creates innovators – people who can see differently
and solve problems differently.” It is these qualities of art and design, he noted,
that will help science “go off-road” and find new kinds of solutions to “hairy,
Through tools such as data visualization and modeling,
artists and designers are already working to make science understandable and
real, and helping people to understand complex issues. By injecting art into
the innovation dialogue STEAM will help the country stay competitive in the 21st
century, he said.
The dialogue continued with a panel discussion among local
leaders in education and innovation, who echoed their support for RISD’s STEAM
initiative and supported it with examples from their own organizations.
Nancy Carriuolo, president of Rhode Island College, cited a
collaboration between the college’s STEM education center and its theater
department to stage a play based on the life of computer science pioneer Alan
Turing. “We all make choices based on art and design everyday,” she
noted. “We all look at the world through the prism of the arts. Our challenge
is to bring that awareness to the general public.”
Saul Kaplan, founder and chief catalyst at Business Innovation
Factory and a member of Rhode Island’s Science and Technology Advisory Council,
spoke about the need for major transformation to solve big social challenges
such as education and health care. He urged collaboration as a way to realize
the opportunities between disciplines and turn the state’s small size into an
advantage.“We need to get new ideas off the whiteboard and onto
the ground, and art and design is a key enabler to making that happen,” he
Andrea Castañeda, chief of the Department of
Accelerating School Performance at the Rhode Island Department of Education, spoke
about art as a trifecta of qualities (innovation + creativity + art and design)
that can infuse curricula in
biology, mathematics and more to help students come up with novel and creative solutions
to challenging problems.
of Industrial Design Charlie Cannon presented
some of the STEAM research already taking place at RISD and its importance
for producing new forms of knowledge. For example, through an EPSCoR grant from the National Science Foundation, RISD is working with Brown, the
University of Rhode Island and nine other schools throughout the state to look
at marine impacts of climate change and develop visual techniques and
communication strategies for scientists to share their findings with a broader
Stephen Lane 85 ID,
CEO of Ximedica, spoke about his medical
device company’s grounding in fine art and design, and noted that although STEM
technologies enable their work, design is the driver. “Those who are using
technology, science and math for creative ends are the people who are changing
the dynamic,” he said.
As he brought the
event to a conclusion, Maeda noted the similarities between studio-based
education and project-based learning, along with the contributions of art and
design to every field – from stem cell research and health care to
entrepreneurship and education.
“Rhode Island is
a leader in this area of integrating art and design into its economy,” Maeda
noted. “It’s time for this message to be heard both locally and nationally.”
STEM to STEAM
resolution H.RES. 319
tags: academic collaborations
forum explores the intersection of art and science (Providence Journal)
, Industrial Design
, public engagement