Putting the ART Back in SMART: I Support STEAM And So Should You

From the inception of this blog, I placed one limitation on myself: I will only write about subjects related to the law. Even though I have written (and will continue to write) about a wide variety of entertaining subjects, this blog is first and foremost the cornerstone of my law practice and is designed as a legal resource for artists. But every once in a while a subject comes up that inflames the passion and ignites my hypocritical edge and today such a subject arose.

On Sunday I attended the tri-annual Alumni Council meeting at my alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design. The major topic we discussed was STEM to STEAM, a movement designed to rebuild our educational curriculums around Science, Technology, Engineering, Art + design, and Math. STEAM is currently a big deal at RISD (the school's president, John Maeda is a huge supporter) and also at some diverse schools nationwide. Evidence suggests that increased focus on these subjects has yielded increased test scores and greater student success. During the Alumni Council meeting, various RISD students gave presentations discussing their studies on the intersection of science and art and I was absolutely blown away by what they were doing. They demonstrated real-world examples of how the process oriented technique used by artists could be combined with the goal oriented technique employed by scientists and engineers (for example, one design student interned at a medical research facility and used their research techniques to develop a beautifully designed app that measures emotional fluctuations for psychotherapeutic uses). And that combination of art and science isn't solely an academic pursuit either. I discovered that Wu-Tang's GZA was so inspired by the rings of Saturn that he is teaming with astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson to make a space-themed rap album. Pardon my lawyer-speak, but Holy F**kin' A! That's awesome!

Anyway, I won't discuss all the STEAM policy stuff here, you can go to the website and read all about it. What you want to know is why I support STEAM and why you should to. Well if you can't tell, art has always been a huge part of my life. Art class in school was a place where an average student like me could shine. I hated studying and reading. I couldn't split atoms, do fractions, or catch a football; but drawing and painting... I was good at that. And I worked hard at it. Without it, my energy would have been wasted, misused, directionless. Eventually, I was good enough that a teacher suggested I consider going to art school. Art school led to television and television led to law school and law school led me here.  Beyond just giving me something to do, my art background gave me the ability to look at problems with a unique perspective and solve them using creative processes.  This, by the way, came in extremely handy in a legal setting.  I would not be the man I am today if I hadn't gone to art class... and I like the man I am today. All because when I was six years old, I was allowed to sit in a room with paint and markers.

Every artist has a story like this, and you know what? I don't know a single non-artist who doesn't have fond memories of art class. Those classes were free of judgment and allowed you to let your mind wander, ponder, and create. Art class was a place where imagination and inspiration were encouraged and evidence suggests that creativity is not only good for the soul, but also stimulates innovation. That's why I support STEAM. I lived STEAM and so did most of you. All of us know from experience (even those of us without an artistic bone in our body) that art is a fundamental underpinning of our culture. We use it, rely on it, communicate through it. It entertains and educates us. If students don't have a space to let their creative juices flow, they become tamped down, uninspired, drones... and that's not America.

House Resolution 319 is a bill that will put federal funding behind just this type of initiative. I've gone ahead and signed a petition that would get the bill in front of Congress by December and it needs 950 more signatures. I highly suggest you sign it and tell your friends about it too.

Greg Kanaan

The [Legal] Artist, Boston, MA, USA