16 Inspirational TED Talks for Art Teachers & Students

Phil Hansen will inspire your students in this video with the idea of accepting any limitations that they might have. It is also a useful video if you are looking at mark making. “Embracing a limitation could actually drive creativity” is a favorite quote of mine from this video. It will encourage students to ‘let go’ and experiment, and dare to think ‘what if…’

Vanessa Ruiz takes us on an illustrated journey of human anatomical art over the centuries, sharing captivating images that bring this visual science — and the contemporary artists inspired by it — to life. It is about half way through the video that she introduces contemporary artists, and this for me is where it get really interesting, with artists who paint on canvas, on bodies and street artists.

‘When I get dressed I build like an architect.’

Daniel Lismore’s closet is probably a bit different than yours — his clothes are constructed out of materials ranging from beer cans and plastic crystals to diamonds, royal silks and 2,000-year-old Roman rings. I think art, textile and photography teachers could use this talk as a starting point. In this striking talk, Lismore shares the vision behind his elaborate ensembles and explores what it’s like to live life as a work of art. “Everyone is capable of creating their own masterpiece,” he says. “You should try it sometime.”

If you are studying Picasso, or war artists or Guernica specifically, this is a great TED Talk.

In 1937, in one of the worst civilian casualties of the Spanish Civil War, Fascist forces bombed the village of Guernica in Northern Spain. For Pablo Picasso, the tragedy sparked a frenzied period of work in which he produced a massive anti-war mural, titled “Guernica.” How can we make sense of this overwhelming image, and what makes it a masterpiece of anti-war art? Iseult Gillespie investigates.

What do you do with an outdated encyclopedia in the information age? With X-Acto knives and an eye for a good remix, artist Brian Dettmer makes beautiful, unexpected sculptures that breathe new life into old books.

If you have a student who likes cartooning, this would be an inspiring TED talk to share with them. Raghava KK tells the colorful tale of how art has taken his life to new places, and how life experiences, in turn, have driven his multiple reincarnations as an artist — from cartoonist to painter, media darling to social outcast, and son to father.

When is a portrait not just a portrait? When it’s a peace project. Inspiring stuff!

This is such an inspiring TED Talk and is easy for students to understand. The photographer, Levon Biss, talks about how he found new fulfillment in photographing insects in extreme close-up thanks to his sons interest. There is also the most incredible website where you can view and zoom in on his photographs. This TED talk and website would be the most incredible start to a project. www.microsculpture.net

If you want to give your students an insight into the career of being an art conservator, this is a useful short video.

One of the painting includes a small amount of nudity, so you might want to check its suitablility for younger classes.

Taking cues from soft robotics and the natural world, conceptual artist Anicka Yi builds lighter-than-air machines that roam and react like autonomous life forms. Her floating “aerobes” inspire us to think about new ways of living with machines — and to ponder how they could evolve into living creatures. “What if our machines could be more than just our tools, and instead, a new type of companion species?” she asks.

This talk by Dustin Yellin, who puts things in boxes, could be a brilliant start to a project. He talks about how his childhood influenced him and he takes you on a journey of how his work has developed. He touches upon problem solving and his influences. You could get students putting items and drawings in boxes or you could get students working on layers of acetate. Huge potential as a starting point!

Alexa Meade seems to be very popular with students right now, and why not! Who doesn’t fancy painting on a real human being? Or photographing a painted model lying in milk! In this video you will see examples of her work and she clearly explains her process and how working this evolved.

This is ideal to show to a student who is going down the paper cutting route, or to give to them as a homework. Or why not start off a whole class project by showing this TED talk? She has a great website.

Painter Alyssa Monks finds beauty and inspiration in the unknown, the unpredictable and even the awful. In a poetic, intimate talk, she describes the interaction of life, paint and canvas through her development as an artist, and as a human.

Art Literacy For Art Teachers

I love it when I get a student who is passionately green and concerned with the environment. This would be a great video to show them.

Artist Theo Jansen demonstrates the amazingly lifelike kinetic sculptures he builds from plastic tubes and lemonade bottles. His creatures are designed to move — and even survive — on their own. This could be a fantastic start to a 3D project using art straws making, what he calls ‘Strandbeests’.

Mark Making Resource For Art Teachers