A is for Alchemy: Creating Community STE(A)M - GatherBoard

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A is for Alchemy: Creating Community STE(A)M

The Arts are a powerful tool for cultural exchange, economic upliftment, personal and intellectual development, and positive mental health outcomes. Plus, they are an essential component of the alchemy of community connection. While STEM and STE(A)M both have their own merits, the addition of the Arts in STEAM provides a powerful combination that completely transforms experiences in nearly every possible case. 

On its own, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) could be simplified into piles of 1’s and 0’s. It’s the injection of capital “A” Art where we find elegance, usefulness, compatibility, innovation, competition, symbiosis, empathy and a host of other experiences and emotions that make where and why we live, work, play and stay worthwhile.  

Community Alchemy, STEAM and The Arts - it's a good thing.
Your Brain with Art!

A rich arts and culture scene is a valuable asset for both locals and tourists. For the local community, it offers opportunities for creative expression, personal growth, and community building. It can also be a source of pride and identity for residents and visitors.

In travel, education, work and life, STEAM adds the Arts into the mix, recognizing the importance of creativity, innovation, and self-expression in today’s world. In a community that values STEAM, locals and travelers think creatively and use the arts as a means of connecting, creating, problem-solving and thriving.

The Arts transform STEM to STEAM

Today, every local-business, from restaurants to theaters, boutiques to salons, tech startups to breweries are using dozens of software platforms, social media outlets, and metrics dashboards to figure out who, what and why their customers are their customers, how to keep them coming back, and get them to engage their circles of influence to gain more customers.  Finding optimally designed, elegant, useful end-users experiences (the “A”) to make sense of the 1’s and 0’s that are the driving force behind most of our work and pleasure is mandatory.

“A” is also for Alchemy, that seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination. Originally, Alchemy was the practice of using spirituality and science to transform one type of matter into another; the historical precursor to chemistry. The most famous example of this is the quest to turn lead into gold. 

Here we are referring to the Alchemy that occurs with the right conditions, the right location and the right participants to create something greater than its parts – that feeling you get when you know you’re in the right place at the right time. IYKYK.  

The Arts of Alchemy
Alchemists Revealing Secrets from the Book of Seven Seals, The Ripley Scroll (detail), ca. 1700. 950053

The Arts are a type of alchemy that can transform experiences for locals and travelers by fostering creativity and imagination, providing an outlet for self-expression, and promoting human connection. The Arts also help to nurture the talents and interests of the community, which can be incredibly motivating and have great economic impact for the region.

Local theater companies, dance troupes, and music ensembles provide opportunities for locals and tourists to participate in the arts, whether as performers or audience members. Museums, galleries, and historic sites offer educational opportunities and a sense of connection to the community’s past.

Arts and culture also have economic benefits for the community: providing jobs and income for artists, artisans, and arts organizations, as well as companion businesses like restaurants, bars, boutiques and salons and arts and culture-related businesses, such as art supply stores, craft shops, and performance venues.

For tourists, a rich arts and culture scene is a major draw, attracting visitors who are interested in experiencing the community’s unique artistic and cultural offerings. Tourists enjoy visiting museums, art galleries, and historic sites, attending live performances and festivals, and experiencing local music, dance, and theater. The arts and culture scene also plays an important role in shaping the overall tourism experience, adding depth and meaning to a visitor’s trip. And, ideally, they tell all their friends about it, and come back to visit again.

According to the 2107 Arts & Economic Prosperity study in Missoula, Montana (our hometown): “the arts and culture industry contributed $54 million to the Missoula economy, with $20.4 million coming from the nonprofit arts organizations, and $33.6 million from audiences.    

  • Missoula’s numbers ($54 million) were nearly three times the national median for cities our size ($19.5 million), and comparable to those of larger regional cities, such as Eugene, Reno or Boulder.  
  • The average attendee at a Missoula arts event spent $26, beyond the cost of admission, on items such as food, beverage and transportation.  Out-of-town visitors spent $53 in such spending.  Though only 20% of all attendees, these cultural tourists accounted for nearly half of all audience spending. 
  • Nonprofit arts and culture in Missoula supported 1,913 FTE jobs, $39 million in resident household income, and contributed $4.3 million annually in state and local government revenue.  These numbers vastly exceeded those of the national median for cities our size (512 FTE jobs, 11.6 million in household income, $1.1 million in government revenue).  “ (https://artsmissoula.org/missoulas-nonprofit-arts-economy/)

To literally make STEAM, you need water, a container and heat (the right people, in the right place, at the right time). When water is heated it evaporates, which means it turns into water vapor and expands. At 100℃ it boils, thus rapidly evaporating. And at boiling point, the invisible gas of STEAM is created. 

To heat up the vibe in your community, the addition of the Arts provides a powerful STEAM-driven tool for personal and cultural development and is an essential component of creating community alchemy.

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