The STEAM Symposium: Laboratory of Visual Exploration is in partnership with the University of Lincoln and will take place at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead.

The Big Draw hopes to shine a light on the role of visual literacy and drawing in the nation’s curriculum and diverse national industries, as the number of students completing art and design GSCEs fails to increase for the third year in a row.

According to the Creative Industries Focus on Employment report published in June by the DCMS, the arts and culture industry is worth £7.7bn to the UK economy. However, in England the number of students taking art and design subjects in 2016 has declined, by 5.5% at GCSE and by 4% at A-level, despite an overall increase in GCSE entries, according to exam watchdog Ofqual.

The day-long event is billed as A Visual Learning Adventure for Educators, and will bring together the sectors of digital technology, science, art, and engineering in a way that demonstrates the importance of art alongside and within other subjects. Educators will be invited to take part in workshops, digital drawing demonstrations, interactive experiments and innovative installations, which aim to show why STEM should become STEAM.

“Visual Literacy is a mode of thinking that helps us understand and navigate the world around us and is a vital tool in an increasingly visual and digital age. This ‘mode’ deserves greater recognition and currency – I hope in time even the term ‘visual literacy’ itself will become more firmly embedded in the mainstream lexicon,” said Kate Mason, Director of The Big Draw.

Lozziwurm at The Playground Project, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, 2016. Photo: John McKenzie © 2016 BALTIC

The BALTIC’s current exhibition, The Playground Project, which explores forgotten urban playground initiatives, will be put to full use at the Symposium with guests being invited to play in a playground to demonstrate the vital role of play in creativity and innovation and will have the opportunity to take their turn on the Lozziwurm – a giant tubular play structure.

“BALTIC’s Learning programme engages over 78,000 visitors a year and encourages the use contemporary art as an alternative lens through which to view the world,” said Emma Thomas, BALTIC’s Head of Learning & Engagement. “Visual literacy and drawing, in its widest sense, form the cornerstones of what we do and we are excited to share and support, more widely, the belief that STEM should be STEAM.”

This event is sponsored by The University of Lincoln as part of a three-year relationship with The Big Draw, and is supported by the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. It is part of The Big Draw’s annual programme of events funded by Arts Council England, which also includes The STEAM Powered Big Draw Festival, which will take place from October 1-31.

The STEAM Symposium: Laboratory of Visual Exploration will take place on September 9 and 10.

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