America’s future depends on creativity

Published 11:19 pm Thursday, May 12, 2011

America’s future depends on creativity.

For 19 Dowagiac and Cassopolis mostly right-brained sophomores seated before Southwestern Michigan College art instructor Sherrie Styx, a lesson of Career Pathway Day Thursday is that with corporate America valuing employees who can think out of the box, arts employment opportunities seem limitless. SMC hosted 10th graders from Edwardsburg and Marcellus on Wednesday.

“It really is about doing what you like to do and making what you like to do bring you money,” Styx counseled. “Our country is changing. My son graduated with a mechanical engineering degree (and $80,000 owed in student loans) and could not find a job for two years. He did a minor in business and ended up finding a job in the business world and using his engineering degree that way. You want to like your job. You’re not going to be a teacher if you hate kids.”

There is the English woman who creates optical illusions on urban sidewalks with chalk, reinforcing the message that “art is everywhere,” from shoes, clothing, jewelry, glasses, cereal boxes, picnic paper plates, cups and napkins, vehicles and their interiors, greeting cards — and someone had to design all those products and packaging. “A graduate of Western Michigan University donated $7 million for a new art school and she was a greeting card designer,” Styx said. “There are tons of designing careers,” as well as theater arts and even sketch artists for when television cameras are prohibited from trials.

They can make $65 an hour, she said.

Styx, who grew up in Chicago, recalled the doodler who went on to a career designing toys for Mattel, created My Little Pony and became a millionaire living in Hawaii.

Styx explained such options as a two-year degree, a four-year degree and a five-year BFA, or bachelor of fine arts degree, and gave students a 10-question quiz (is your bedroom neat or cluttered like her daughter’s? do you do homework while eating, listening to music and talking on the phone or texting or do you finish one project before going on to the next?) to help them determine if they’re “wired” left- (analytical, such as language, math and science) or right- (art and music) brained. “We recommend that you do a major and a minor,” she said. “Think about two areas you like, put them together and create your own program.”

Styx highlighted arts-related careers students might not even consider, such as CSI forensic artists which can tap a parallel interest in science; art historians and restoration, “a growing field. I have a friend in Milwaukee who does this”; and graphic designers who make the chairs and desks in the classroom. There will be demand for 40,000 teaching jobs in the next five years, she said.

During World War II, Adolf Hitler hired artists to sketch the world around him the way he wanted people to remember him,” Styx said. “But artists are funny people and they don’t like to go with the flow. If you give them a rule, they’re going to want to break it, and that’s what his artists did. They made hidden paintings underneath, so art sleuths are pulling up Hitler’s on top and seeing grotesque paintings underneath.”