FRANKFORT, Ky. — A group of nearly 60 arts educators, teaching artists, school representatives, business people and representatives from arts organizations gathered today to hear some of the state's leaders in business and education discuss the role arts education plays in preparing Kentucky's young people for the workforce.

"Creativity and Innovation: Developing Tomorrow's Workforce" was sponsored by the Kentucky Arts Council as part of its celebration of National Arts in Education Week.

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton started the morning off with a presentation on how the arts have informed the work his district has undertaken to integrate arts in all aspects of the education process. Shelton said studies have proven the arts have a tremendous impact on brain development and can be used as a tool by teachers.

"Instead of saying, 'why would we do the arts,' the question I ask is, why wouldn't we," said Shelton.

Fayette County Public Schools provides $1,000 to each school to host visiting artists in their classrooms. Shelton said the total sum - $66,000 – is relatively small, but the school district receives an enormous return on academic investment.

He emphasized the importance of providing all students access to the arts at school to give them a complete education, to address achievement gaps, and to develop skills students can use to be college and career-ready.

"We have to realize we all have to work together," he said. "It's a partnership between education, businesses and the arts community."

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion with:

  • Kris Kimel, president of Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and founder of IdeaFestival.
  • Susan Brewer, human resources director, Gray Construction.
  • Rick Hesterberg, manager of external affairs, Toyota Motor Manufacturing.
  • Erika Strecker, creative design manager, Big Ass Fans.
The panelists discussed what skills their businesses look for in employees and how large a role creativity and innovation play in their daily operations.

"We build buildings, so it takes creativity, innovation, outside the box thinking to make those things happen every day," said Brewer. "We do that by fostering and facilitating creativity every day."

Hesterberg said Toyota team members are constantly contributing new ideas to the company's benefit.

"Problem-solving is a big part of what we do, so creativity and innovation relates directly to that," he said. "We rely on our team members to be the experts."

And, Kimel said, one of the most important aspects of making progress in education and innovation is promoting the idea that failure is part of the process.

"The key to innovation is to fail fast and cheap," he said. "If you're not failing, you're not innovating. You've got to let people know there are no right answers. You've got to get people out of the bind of thinking in that linear fashion."

The event was held at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. Anyone interested in a video of the event can contact the arts council at 502-564-3757.

The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, creates opportunities for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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