Lisa Jardine

Column: Rye Arts Center picks up STEAM

You would be hard pressed in 2014 to not have heard the acronym STEM—Science, Technology, Lisa-JardineEngineering and Math. The acronym has been bandied about for years and is a vital part of the model for educational policy and curriculum in the United States. Its goals are to create and maintain a citizenry well versed in these four fields.

Recently, thanks to former Rhode Island School of Design president John Maeda, a new letter has been added and is changing the way we look at education. It’s the letter A, which squeezes the arts right in the middle of all that science and math to create a new term: STEAM.

The Rye Arts Center wasted no time jumping into this new movement by adding leading-edge programming that will appeal to innovators, creators and artists of all ages.

Jardine-Steam-2“Arts integrated with science and math. That’s where innovation and creativity come together,” Helen Gates, executive director of the center, said. “By offering STEAM programming, we’ll capture the traditional artists in the front door and the engineering and science kids through the back.”

On Jan. 11, the center did a test run to get a feel for the interest in the community by offering a Free Family Day, which included demos, workshops, a musical concert and refreshments. A hands-on afternoon was designed to provide fun while creating art and music using the latest in technology. The center put tool kits and a few borrowed 3-D printers out, hoping it’d get about 50 participants.

More than 200 people came, boys and girls, all ages, parents, people from all over Westchester County as well as Rockland and New York City. This unbelievable response has created an entirely new program at the RAC that will prepare future artists for the 21st century.

Blue Tulip Chocolates in Rye is a supporter of the Rye Arts Center’s STEAM program. Photo courtesy Diane Holland

Blue Tulip Chocolates in Rye is a supporter of the Rye Arts Center’s STEAM program. Photo courtesy Diane Holland

Some of the new classes on offer this spring include MakeyMakey Piano, a computerized invention kit that turns ordinary objects into musical instruments aimed at children from 8 to 10 years old. Also on offer is SCRATCH, a visually-based programming system that creates interactive animated stories set to music for ages 6 to 8. And coming soon will be classes that offer 3-D printing.

All of these new programs require money and now, with budget cuts in the arts, they are becoming more important than ever. Funds are needed to purchase 3-D MakerBot printers, hire and train instructors in STEAM curriculum, buy materials and software for 3-D classes and help provide classes for children who otherwise would not be able to participate.

“Most of our funding comes from the one gala we host each spring. Everyone in the community comes together and has a great time celebrating the arts,” Gates said. “The money raised goes towards outreach, arts education, scholarships and our mission as well as to help fund our new programming. This year’s honorees, Peter Sinnott—owner of Homeworks in Port Chester—and Laurie Platek, a long-term arts patron and board member, are the true intersection of art and design. Laurie and Peter have played a significant role in bringing the beauty of the arts to our community. They’ve each devoted their considerable talents, energies and passions to The Rye Arts Center for many years and share a commitment to providing opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the arts.

Jardine-Steam-1“We’re also honored to be celebrating Famous Artists, which, at 28 years old, is one of the RAC’s oldest arts-in-education programs. It’ll be a terrific evening of fun
and celebration.”

The event this year will take place on Saturday, May 3, at the Shenorock Shore Club. The evening will include cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a light supper and a live and silent auction.

Donations and support to RAC come in many forms, some of them deliciously rich.

A local supporter of the STEAM objectives at the Rye Arts Center is Diane Holland, owner of Blue Tulip Chocolates in Rye. Blue Tulip Chocolates will contribute a portion of its revenue from April 8 to May 8, 2014, during the very busy Easter and Passover season, to the new programming at the Rye Arts Center.

“Nurturing creativity, innovation and imagination are at the foundation of STEAM, as well as at the heart of a small business like ours,” Holland said. “Watching children create new technology through this program is exciting and extremely important to the future of our culture and our community.”

Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, once told Steve Jobs “those people who can stand at the intersection of the humanities and science, the liberal arts and technology, that intersection, are the people who can change the world.”

The Rye Arts Center is doing its part, affecting change beautifully.

Sitting Pretty

Honoring Laurie Platek & Peter Sinnott

Rye Arts Center Spring Gala

Saturday May 3, 2014,  7 p.m. 

Shenorock Shore Club

475 Stuyvesant Ave., Rye

For more information:


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