Tesla, the technology company that is best known for its electric vehicles, has made a sizeable donation to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. The clean energy specialist announced in February that it had decided to invest in what it referred to as ‘the next generation’ of designers, engineers and technology creators. The gallery, which houses in excess of 2,000 works of art drawn from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, said that Tesla had committed approximately £970,000 to the museum’s STEAM-based education programme. It is thought that these educational initiatives will now receive the funding it needs over the course of the next four years.
Image: Jan Butchofsky / Alamy Stock Photo
“We are thrilled,” said David Walker, the chief executive of the gallery. He said that a ‘significant relationship’ would now be forged with Tesla. “They understand that – to build a sustainable future workforce in the state of Nevada – interdisciplinary educational strategies need to be employed in and out of the classroom,” he added. Walker went on to say that the company and his museum have philosophies that are in alignment concerning education. According to him, the creative and design-based disciplines required at tech companies, like Tesla, require thinking that is founded in educating ‘the whole student’, including art.
Blending Art and Science
STEAM education incorporates arts and mixes it with more traditional technological disciplines, such as science, engineering and mathematics. According to the museum’s officials, the four-year partnership with Tesla will allow the museum to support its ongoing commitment to the programme. It will include a commitment to bring about arts education in every school district in Nevada, including some STEAM-focused school tours of the gallery itself. In all, some 8,000 students are expected to benefit from the programme. This will be children who range in age from kindergarten-goers to those in the twelfth grade.
According to the gallery’s management team, the new source of funding will allow for a greater level of focus on finding out where the intersection between technology and the arts truly lies. A statement to that effect was issued by the museum shortly after the announcement was first made. “Nevada students will have chances to learn and to prepare for the jobs of the future,” it read. It is also expected that the large contribution to the museum’s STEAM programme budget will assist it with putting on the institution’s STEAM Conference which is put on annually. In addition, ongoing professional development for educators within the STEAM programme will also now receive a boost.
A Growing Partnership
The gallery had already forged a relationship with Tesla before the funding announcement was made. Some six years ago, the technology company decided to launch a new facility in Reno. Dubbed its ‘Gigafactory’, Tesla decided to sponsor a number of one-off events that the museum was staging as a result of its association with the city. The company is a sponsor of the art gallery’s current exhibition, for example. Named ‘Where Art and Tech Collide’, this show is very much in keeping with the spirit and brand identity of Tesla. The exhibition features many new works of art including those by Trevor Paglen, Kal Spelletich and Leo Villareal to name but three. This, and other sponsorship deals in the last few years, have now led to the more substantial, multi-million dollar donation.
It is hoped that in years to come, Tesla will reap the benefits of a more tech-savvy populace in and around Reno. The donation may be a philanthropic one but it has been made to a gallery that is very much on board with the idea of promoting technological learning already, albeit within the field of the arts. According to one commentator in the state, if the well-funded programme can better facilitate learning, so students will explore new strategies and methodologies down the line. This could help with forging new technological advancements just as much as it could with producing a highly valued piece of art.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.