There were so many speakers at convention that choosing was a difficult decision. Once or twice I couldn't get into the talks I wanted to see, or I was just too pressed for time to get to everything I wanted, but I did my best. The two creative giants I did have the pleasure of hearing, and who left me uplifted and inspired were Chuck Close and John Maeda.
John Maeda, President, Rhode Island School of Design, gave a talk on the theme of STEM to STEAM. Check it out if you haven't heard about this movement to recognize the arts as part of the equation for innovation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Mr. Maeda spoke about the impact of art and design on education. He stated that artists make connections that others my not see, and made the correlation between scientists and artists as people who both ask big questions. He made it clear that art is a "need to have" element in the education system, not a "nice to have." He also spoke about the art teacher as one who shapes a person's journey in life, no matter what profession they choose. Hear hear!
Mr. Close shared his childhood, obstacles he's overcome, his education and his professional career. The greatest thing about his talk was that it was informal and full of humor and anecdotes. It was not a stuffy, formal dictation of events in order. I left with a sense of getting to know a new friend.
For this session I decided to put down my notebook and just enjoy the ride, but I do remember one great bit of wisdom, that Mr. Close told us to take home with us: Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us show up and work everyday.
I was also particularly struck by a talk given by a gentleman from the midwest. He was featured as an award winning teacher, and gave a presentation of his art room and lessons. At one point he shared with us how many students he taught and his yearly budget. There was a collective gasp from everyone in the room! It seemed nearly impossible to be able to offer an art curriculum with the monetary constraints he had. When he heard the reaction he calmly said, "I know, I know what you are thinking. But where I live, most students don't have any art supplies outside of the school environment, and I am glad to be able to give them these experiences." This was truly inspiring!
Lastly, many teachers from all over the country spoke and gave me great ideas for new lesson plans, class room management, art materials I haven't tried or have shied away from, and interdisciplinary themes for the art room. I was given a boost of enthusiasm, a new perspective, and a chance to experience the greater community of artists and art educators— something that is usually limited to the handful of staff among an entire district of employees. That connection was very empowering.