Making the Case for a Liberal Arts Education

There has been quite a bit of discussion about this topic lately, given the cuts to post-secondary institutions in Alberta and the promotion of specialized education in the “professions” (medicine, law, business, engineering) that has seemed to take precedence in the rhetoric of governments in the name of being “competitive” in the global marketplace, as well as ensuring that our young people have what is believed to be the right “skill set” for today’s workplace. While a “professional degree” is undoubtedly a valid and rewarding choice, it may not be for everyone. Mercifully, there are some clear arguments for a well-rounded, liberal arts education that are becoming more prominent, and I’ve recently come across two of the more thorough and articulate.

The first is a Ted talk from 2009 by Liz Coleman, then the President of Bennington College, a small liberal arts college in the U.S. I highly recommend this. It spells out the need for study in the liberal arts so clearly it’s impossible not to recognize their importance.

The second is a report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, making the same argument in a different way, in more detail, but just as convincingly.

I wish there were Canadian sources making similar arguments, but so far I haven’t found any. If anyone out there knows of any, I’d love to read them and blog about them.

 

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And now…a post…about…knitting!

My very own Beer Mitt

My very own Beer Mitt

Please read the title of this post with the appropriate Monty Python-esque emphasis. And having done that, we move on to the rest of the post…

I love KnittyBlog! For those knitters out there who haven’t already explored Knitty’s magazine or the blog, I really, truly recommend you go there, if for no other reason than World Wide Wednesdays, when the post is a compendium of knitting stories from around the world.

You’ll find running stories like this

…And strange and wonderful tales like this.

And of course, Knitty’s mag is the home of the amazing Beer Mitt, which I blogged about here.

You don’t have to be a knitter to enjoy this stuff, either. Who knows, you might be inspired to become a knitter, and that would be amazing!

Art Meets Business

Here’s an example of someone who’s in the business world, but who also really understands the role the arts play in our society. Todd Hirsch revisits the economic arguments for the arts and makes them immediate and relevant, while also tying their value to the other, non-economic-yet-extremely-important aspects of our lives.

See his blog post on the subject.

A side note here is that the statistics Mr. Hirsch refers to in his post are likely to be only the tip of the proverbial artistic iceberg in Alberta, as they only reference organizations funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts – the firmest province-wide statistics available at the moment. There are many arts organizations who aren’t funded by the AFA, as well as individual artists (funded and not funded by AFA programs) who contribute economically as well.

We need more people like Todd Hirsch to lend their voices to his.

 

This Week In Creativity

I read an interesting article in the latest issue of Alberta Venture magazine this week on stimulating innovation and creativity in the workplace. The article point out some truths about the conditions required for the creativity that stimulates innovation: the absence of fear, and the presence of humour. Both of these lead to inspiring the courage to fail – something I know I need to work on…a lot…

You can find the full issue on newstands, at the Red Arrow bus stop in downtown Edmonton, or if you have a library card, through the Edmonton Public Library’s on-line Zinio magazine service (one of the coolest ways to access magazines, in my opinion).

It was good food for thought and dovetailed with something I’d watched and read about earlier in the year: John Cleese’s thoughts on stimulating creativity and the 5 things that are needed to do that:

  1. Space (an “oasis” for creativity)
  2. Time (Cleese feels you need about 90 minutes, so that there’s time for any distractions to disappear and for what he terms “open” mode to occur)
  3. Time (to ponder ideas and question them)
  4. Confidence (which in my mind can also be thought of as the courage to fail – nothing is a mistake when you are in “open” mode)
  5. Humor (as in, allow it – in fact, go for it)

You can find his talk here. It’s worth the time. There are also excerpts on YouTube, but I recommend the whole thing.

…and then there was the coolest example of creativity I saw this week: The Beer Mitt, in the Deep Fall issue of Knitty magazine. I can see many of these in my knitting future. They would make outstanding gifts.

Finally, in support of creativity and the arts, the #yegvotesarts campaign is heating up. Get your button by emailing admin AT pacedmonton DOT com, follow the campaign on twitter, facebook or tumblr, and see which candidates support creativity and the arts in the upcoming Edmonton municipal election. There are also questions you can ask candidates in your ward – wherever you are in the province of Alberta, which has municipal elections throughout this year – or at public all-candidates forum or even on your doorstep.

 

The Story of a Shawl Design

I thought it might be fun to re-post this from my project page on Craftsy.com – which is an amazing site if you’re interested in learning something new, be it about knitting, crochet, quilting, sewing, baking cakes, photography, and so on. Even though I work in the Arts, it’s not often I get to create something like this, and learning how to design a lace shawl opened a lot of new thought pathways for me. …and it was a lot of fun!

Of the stitch patterns mentioned in this design, the Miniature Leaf pattern came from the pattern for the Little Silk Shrug in Lace Style (published by Interweave Press), and the Oriel pattern comes from Barbara G. Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns (THE definitive stitch dictionary in my opinion – if you’re only going to have one, this should be it).

The first attempt at this top-down triangular shawl, as illustrated by the 1st chart (see photos below) and swatch/sample, worked fine for the Miniature Leaf pattern in the centre, but did not work when I switched to the Oriel pattern, which turned out not to be symmetrical, despite the fact that the increase rate worked well for both patterns (1, 1, 2, 2) (see detail photo – yikes!). Back to the chart to fix it…

The first chart - looks okay, but it wasn't when I knit it.

The first chart – looks okay, but it wasn’t when I knit it.

Definitely NOT symmetrical! Back to the "charting" board.

Definitely NOT symmetrical! Back to the “charting” board.

The second chart turned out better (see photo), with both stitch patterns symmetrical in each triangular wedge. I also made a better transition to the border, continuing the purl stitches into the border rows. However, the border on this attempt didn’t seem work as well – it isn’t as “pointy” as the first sample, but I’m not too bothered about that, as the other stitch patterns turned out well. Perhaps I would need to add more border rows to make the border more “pointy”?

The revised project chart - now it should work!

The revised project chart – now it should work!

Success! Both sides look the same.

Success! Both sides look the same.

When I come to knit it again, I will make the centre larger and use a wool or wool blend fingering weight yarn that will hold the blocking better than the cotton I used here – and that is in a colour I like better. The stitch definition of the cotton is wonderful, but cotton doesn’t hold blocking well, and I don’t think I’d want to keep having to re-block it.

It was a really enjoyable journey and now I’m working on another design for a triangular shawl that has a thistle motif to reflect my Scottish heritage.  When I come to knit that one, I will post on my progress here.

#yegvotesarts

BoxesOfButtons

If you live in Edmonton, Alberta, you know there’s a municipal election in October. If the Arts matter to you, you’ll want to follow the #yegvotesarts campaign, an initiative of the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton (PACE).  This non-partisan campaign is following all the candidates for Mayor, Councillors and School Board trustees, asking them what their vision for the Arts in the lives of Edmontonians will be if they were elected.

Check out answers to the candidate survey on the arts via PACE’s website, facebook page, twitter feed, and on tumblr. There’s even a great button – see above – that you can find at various locations around town, such as the Fringe and Alberta Ballet’s office!

Some of the candidates have even endorsed or highlighted the campaign. Don Iveson, a mayoral candidate has been seen wearing the #yegvotesarts button, Ward 7 candidate Mimi Williams has given it a “thumbs up” on her campaign facebook page, and Ward 3 candidate David Dodge has endorsed the campaign as well.

The Arts are a vital part of community vitality and resiliency and play an important role in making Edmonton a great place to live, work and play. Get involved or show your support by following the campaign using the hashtag #yegvotesarts.

What’s it all about?

This may seem like an odd blog. Some days it’s about knitting, some days it’s about managing or advocating for the Arts, some days it’s seemingly random thoughts on creativity.

It’s About the Art is about all of these things, because all of these things, to me at least, are about the Art. The Arts are everything to me. I believe that life without Art isn’t really life. The Arts are our interpretation and expression of our world. They provide transcendent experiences, ask important questions, entertain, educate, engage and allow us to progress as societies and indeed as a species. The Arts are us – intrinsic, fundamental, and very, very important.

So for me, everything is about the Art. I hope you’ll agree and enjoy.