HOW TO SURVIVE THE FUTURE KIDS!
I recently found this article from Dustin Timbrook and it says the same thing I've been saying for years - art schools produce rounded, confident adults who will be the creators of our future aesthetic. Everyone I speak to about education and the future of the job market/high street seems to find this a surprising viewpoint but we really need to get the message across to people; creativity must be nurtured and funded in our education system because pretty soon their won't be any need for a large percentage of the things we currently teach our children. Here's the complete article;
Want your children to survive the future? Send them to art school!
Can you imagine a world in which most jobs are obsolete?
If not, you are in for a rude awakening in the coming decades due to radical shifts in employment. This is particularly true for new parents propelling the next generation of workers into an adulthood that many economists and futurists predict to be the first ever “post-work” society. Though the idea of a jobless world may seem radical, the prediction is based on the natural trajectory of ‘creative destruction’ - the classic economic principle by which established industries are decimated when they are made irrelevant by new technologies.
When was the last time you picked up the hot new single from your local sheet music store?
Many moons ago sheet music was the music industry, with the only available means of hearing pop songs being to have a musician read and perform them. This quickly eroded with the advent of the phonograph, leading to a record industry that dominated the last century and is now itself eroding due to the explosive growth of independent online publishing. It’s hard to justify using a massive workforce of recording engineers, media manufacturers, distributors, and talent scouts to accomplish a task that a musician can now do by herself in an afternoon with just a laptop. The same goes for the millions of skilled labour and manufacturing jobs that will soon be overtaken by 3D-printing technology, the thousands of retailers whose staff and storefronts will be supplanted by online shopping and automated delivery systems, or the dwindling hospitality and transportation industries currently being pecked away by app-based sharing services like AirBnB and Uber.
Never heard of 3D printing, ride-sharing, or “post-work” theory? That’s okay; you can just Google them. In fact, thanks to Google we may now add the very concept of knowledge itself to our growing list of no-longer-scarce resources. When anyone can access the world’s greatest library from their cellphone, even the long-revered skill of knowing things loses its marketability. If preparing your kids for a world in which hard-working, knowledgeable people are unemployable frightens you then I have some good news. There is a solution, and it doesn’t involve tired, useless attempts at suppressing technology. Like most good solutions it requires a trait that is distinctly human. I’m speaking about Creativity.
Send your kids to art school. Heavily invest time and resources into their creative literacy. Do these things and they will stand a chance at finding work and/or fulfillment in a future where other human abilities become irrelevant. Any adult reading this at the time of publication came of age in an era when parents urged children to learn a subject that would funnel straight into a specific career field. Even those parents who encouraged their children’s creative dreams did so with an addendum that we should also consider getting a degree in a practical field that “you can always fall back on" if sculpture / theater / poetry doesn’t work out. No doubt this protective instinct was a smart one considering the reality of our youth. An arts education might promise a life of self-discovery but there has always been reasonably assured financial stability in the high-demand arenas of science, education, skilled trades, government, etc. Surely that dynamic won’t last much longer as more and more physical and mental human tasks are commandeered by machines and software. I don’t say this to dismiss the importance of any field of study. A world without scientists or doctors or teachers would be just as broken as a world with no artists. Without programmers and engineers the very technologies that make life efficient would quickly disappear. But with the abundance of information and tools freely accessible online to a generation of youngsters equipped with computers from toddler-hood, it’s safe to assume that those who want to maintain current technology have few obstacles in learning how to do so - No degree required. The same goes for any pragmatic skill.
The arts, however, are a polar opposite to pragmatism. Cameras have long exceeded our ability to realistically and efficiently render images, but still our love of painting remains to this day. By now we know that the value of a great painting isn’t its accuracy at rendering a view but in the artist’s unique capacity to convey their 'viewpoint'. Even those uninterested in 'fine art' are driven to make purely aesthetic decisions on practical matters such as clothing, shelter, and transportation. Our willingness to pay extra for beautiful clothes, inviting homes, and sleek cars is motivated not by functionality but by emotion. It’s inherently human to want the objects in our lives to communicate feelings and ideas to us and those about us. The constant searching for and assignment of meaning dwells in everyone, but the artist is the person who exercises this muscle regularly enough to control it. The person with creative literacy - a basic understanding of the mental, emotional, and sociological tools used for creative thought and communication - is able to find purpose and apply meaning to their world rather than having meaning handed down to them. The painting student completes his graduation exhibit with a head full of many more lessons than just how to paint. He’s now equipped with an ability to see problems, connections, and solutions where others see only a blank surface. I assure you this ability is not limited to the canvas.
I’m not saying anything new here. The qualities of a liberal arts education have been expounded by its proprietors for ages, but with major industries quickly running out of the need for worker bees it’s becoming clearer by the day that our professors were right. In fact it’s somewhat amazing that this idea was ever in question. Humanity’s highest-paid workers have always been those who, as a result of their innovations, created opportunity for others. There’s a reason Steve Jobs became a billionaire, and it’s NOT because he could program computers. Of course history is also filled with countless stories of equally creative figures lost in the systemic grind of working for the Steve Jobs’ of the world. We’ve all known brilliant people, seemingly not made for our time, whose potential was crushed by dead end jobs after their work was rejected by the film / music / publishing / anything industries. The excuse of being ahead of one’s time can no longer apply though. We live in an age where a person speaking into a webcam can collectively raise hundreds of thousands of dollars just by telling people about a good idea. The gatekeepers are gone and they are not coming back. Our only remaining obstacle can be lack of good ideas.
It’s time for a revolution in education that reflects this new reality and gives students the necessary tools to survive it. Technological advancements will always outpace the offerings of the traditional classroom, making it entirely purposeless to force memorization of knowledge that may become irrelevant before children even graduate. Instead we should hone the skill that best ensures adaptability and resourcefulness during times of constant change. It’s time for the creative classroom. Let children pursue their own interests and they will find their way to all areas of study as part of the exploratory process. The childhood compulsion to explore is a bud quickly snipped by adults conditioned to fear the unknown. The tradition of discouraging unusual questions and behavior in children is so pervasive that we have come to view those who survive with their creativity intact as having a “gift”. What is more absurd is our amazement at the correlation of great artists and mental illness, as if the battle for self-expression which artists so tenaciously endure has no causal link to their psychological well-being.
The change that will secure your children’s safe passage through the future comes when we strip creativity of its mysterious, unearthly status. Artists are not magical geniuses. We are simply people who were privileged enough, or stubborn enough, to hold onto something that every living person has at birth. Assume that your children have limitless creative potential and begin to nurture it. Assume that your children’s ingenuity is the one true safety net available in times of rapid change. Send your kids to art school and they will have exactly what they need to become anything they might want, or need, to be.
I speak from experience!
Originally published at rocketcitymom on February 10, 2015.
Dustin Timbrook is a Media Director of America’s largest independent arts facility, Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment. He is also Creative Director for marketing company Red Brick Strategies, co-founder of Happenin' Records, founder of the Huntsville Artist Engineer Network and co-founder of STE(A)M Fest, an annual event that promotes creativity in the STEM subjects to students. He has a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Montevallo but had to fall back on his painting degree when public education didn’t work out.
Here's another example from a visionary figure who has been saying the same thing for years. Syd Mead was an American 'Visual Futurist', which is to say that he is employed by the great and the good from major Hollywood movie studios like Disney to Japanese corporations and global software companies to design the 'look' of the things that we will one day use, buy, work with and live in. Syd was interviewed by an online magazine about his design work on the ground-breaking science fiction movie Blade Runner in 1982. He spoke about the collaborative process which results in visual paradigms which we all recognise today, which have become part of the modern vernacular of design in the modern world and he had something very interesting to say about creativity;
THE PROBLEM WITH ART GALLERIES
As an independent designer-maker I have to constantly find ways to sell my work in order to fund the creation of new work. Nothing unusual there. I'm very lucky in that my glass art has been self-funding for some years now (which only means I make enough from sales to cover the cost of the raw materials, studio consumables, packaging and the power to fire my kilns). Of course there are other expenses in life and if you want to turn a hobby into a profession, as I now have, you need to step up the output and incomes to commercial levels and this means sending my creations out into the big wide world to earn their keep which is where art galleries come into the picture.
Now don't get me wrong. I love art galleries. Whenever I travel I visit galleries small and large and I'm privileged to live in a part of the world where art galleries abound. Every sea-side town and tourist spot in the sunny south west of England has an art gallery, or several art galleries, and these are a great place to display and sell work such as mine. But this is where my problem with galleries lies; no art gallery wants to actually buy my work. Gallery owners all tell me how lovely my glass is and how they think it would suit their customer base, and how it is very good value for money but then, almost without exception, they expect me to hand over the work without taking payment for it on the understanding that if it sells they will send me some money.
As a self-employed person, rather than a commercial entity such as a limited company, I am not offered any kind of credit terms by raw materials suppliers. When I need several hundred pounds worth of raw glass at the beginning of each month my supplier doesn't say "take the glass and pay us for it when your work is finished and sold". When I fire my big electric kilns or use my pillar drill, grinders or blasting cabinet the electricity company doesn't say "pay your bill when you get enough money in to cover it". No, far from it. My suppliers all want payment up-front or no deal! Which makes the art gallery sale-or-return (or "commission sales" as they prefer to term it) business model seem very unfair to the artist. I understand that gallery owners have overheads to pay but so do we all and the rest of us don't expect other people to support our businesses at their own expense. High street shops pay for their stock so you can come in and browse so why the difference?
The standard art gallery business model seems to be;
- Fill the space with work provided for free (artist/maker delivers or pays delivery costs).
- If a piece of work sells give the maker 50% (or less) of the net income.
- Only give the maker his cut at the end of the month following the date of sale.
- If a piece sells expect another piece to be provided, free of charge, to replace it.
- If a piece doesn't sell get the maker to arrange for collection or pay for return.
My own view is that if, as an art gallery, you take a piece of my brightly coloured art glass and place it in the window or on the wall it helps to attract people into your gallery where they may make a purchase (but not necessarily of my work). So I am helping to draw customers in to your business to purchase someone else's work, at no cost to you. I worked in advertising for twenty five years and I know how expensive it is to promote businesses so I find this just amazing. I now look at art galleries in a completely new way. I see rooms full of fantastic artworks which have been provided for free and loads of creative people who are being taken advantage of and can't really see any way to change it, except perhaps to open my own gallery and fill it with work I have paid for myself.
So, if you are an art gallery, and you like my work and think your customers will like my work, BUY SOME! I will give you a good wholesale/trade price, which will allow me to pay my suppliers and create more work for you in the future. That doesn't sound unfair, does it?
ARTWORK IS WORK! SUPPORTING THE ARTS MEANS PAYING THE ARTIST.
A FLUID DISCUSSION
ORIGINALLY POSTED IN FEBRUARY 2015
It's been a while since I wrote that glass is a solid and not, as some people believe, a liquid. It's a conversation I have quite regularly these days when people ask what I do for a living and I explain that I melt glass in a kiln to create art. A common reply is something along the lines of "oh yes, because glass is a liquid isn't it". This is usually said in the form of a statement rather than a question. What has brought me to reaffirm my point in writing was an appearance last week on BBC Radio 2 of a marketing manager from the UK's most well known window glass supplier, Pilkington, who stated that glass was a supercooled liquid...
It amazes me that this notion is still being repeated but since it is I will copy, below, the dictionary definition of glass which clearly states that although some of the temperature-dependant transitions in physical state are indistinct, glass is an amorphous non-crystalline solid.
In physics, the standard definition of a glass (or vitreous solid) is a solid formed by rapid melt quenching. However, the term glass is often used to describe any amorphous solid that exhibits a glass transition temperature : Tg. If the cooling of the molten state is sufficiently rapid (relative to the crystalisation time) then crystallisation is prevented and instead the disordered atomic configuration of the liquid is 'frozen' into the solid state at Tg. The tendency for a material to form a glass while quenched is called glass-forming ability. This ability can be predicted by rigidity theory. Generally, the structure of a glass exists in a metastable state with respect to its crystalline form, although in certain circumstances, for example in atactic polymers where there is no crystalline analogue of the amorphous phase.
Some people consider glass to be a liquid due to its lack of a first-order phase transition (where certain thermodynamic variables such as volume, entropy and enthalpy are discontinuous through the transition range). However, glass transition may be described as analogous to a second-order phase transition where the intensive thermodynamic variables such as the thermal expansivity and heat capacity are discontinuous. Despite this, the equilibrium theory of phase transformations does not entirely hold for glass, and hence the glass transition cannot be classed as one of the classical equilibrium phase transformations.
Glass is an amorphous non-crystalline solid. It exhibits an atomic structure close to that observed in a supercooled liquid phase but displays all the mechanical properties of a solid.
The notion that glass flows to an appreciable extent over extended periods of time is not supported by empirical research or theoretical analysis (see viscosity of amorphous materials). Laboratory measurements of room temperature glass flow show motion consistent with a material viscosity on the order of 1017–1018 Pa s.
Although the atomic structure of glass shares some of the characteristics of supercooled liquids, glass behaves as a solid below its transition temperature. A supercooled liquid behaves as a liquid, but it is below the freezing point of the material, and in some cases will crystallize almost instantly if a crystal is added as a core. The change in heat capacity at a glass transition and a melting transition of comparable materials are typically of the same order of magnitude, indicating that the change in active degrees of freedom is comparable as well. Both in a glass and in a crystal it is mostly only the vibrational degrees of freedom that remain active, whereas rotational and translational motion is arrested. This helps to explain why both crystalline and non-crystalline solids exhibit rigidity on most experimental time scales.
So, any questions or shall we put this topic to bed?