Huntsville’s shifting focus from STEM to STEAM

STEAM is more than just an acronym; it is a strategic shift.

Posted: Oct 11, 2021 3:02 PM
Updated: Oct 11, 2021 5:30 PM

Huntsville is putting the 'art' in STEM.

The Rocket City's science, technology, engineering and mathematics focus isn't new, but adding the ‘A‘ for art is taking the city in a new direction. STEAM is more than just an acronym; it is a strategic shift.

Mayor Tommy Battle and Camillia King-Stanley dedicate a plaque on the "This Girl Can" mural in the heart of Huntsville's downtown.

First Baptist Church Huntsville by Beth Cowan Drake/Alabama The Beautiful

David M. Schwarz Architects rendering of Huntsville Amphitheater

So, why’s it an important change? City leaders said it comes down to quality of life and attracting STEM folks here to work.

“We have to get people here to see it, and once they get here, they get it,” said Claire Aiello, vice president of marketing and communications at Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Telling Huntsville's story is a focus as businesses look to recruit people to move here for these new jobs.

“We have all kinds of ways that Huntsville celebrates the arts, and our companies can use those in materials as they share word about Huntsville when they are working to recruit people here, and these are just some of the tools they can use as they recruit,” Aiello said.

And it’s not just murals on walls, Aiello said. Grants and funding in schools for more arts education, companies supporting growing artist initiatives, dance and music are all cozying up to the math and science focus. It is a unique blend that people like Aiello are betting will set Huntsville apart from other cities.

“Creativity is a critical element in a growing economy, uniting people and groups from all walks of life," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. "In Huntsville, we are fortunate to have an impressive pool of talented artists and other makers right here in our community. Their contributions not only add to our quality of life, but also make Huntsville a diverse, welcoming place to live, work and play."

Battle said recent investments in public art installations and an 8,000-seat amphitheater at MidCity District are just some of the ways Huntsville officials are demonstrating how they prioritize art, music and other forms of creative expression. 

And this focus isn’t just a Huntsville thing. The Alabama State Council on the Arts has worked on initiatives and partnerships to grow the arts across the state since about 2013.

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