10 TED Talks Every Art Teacher Should Watch

Hopefully, when I tell you I have been watching Ted Talks non-stop for a month, you know I am talking about the short, inspiring videos and not the rude, crude talking bear. TED Talks started back in 1984 when a conference was held for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Speakers were challenged to present powerful speeches in under 18 minutes. Since then, it has grown into a national movement with one mission– to spread ideas.

My first TED talk happened to be by Matt Cutts with his challenge to do something new for 30 days. It was only 3 minutes and 27 seconds long, but it had me hooked on the idea of watching a new TED talk every day for a month.

There are lots of “Top 10 Ted Talk” lists out there, so I am going to keep this one focused on the talks that spoke to me as an Art Teacher. They are talks that question the decline of creativity in our schools, spark ideas about how to view artwork or the world around us, and give us a look inside artists’ minds. So without further ado and in no particular order, here are 10 TED talks every art teacher should watch.

TED Talks


1. Phil Hansen: Embrace the Shake

I have shown this 10-minute talk in my middle school classroom to help my students understand that when you experience a setback, you can quit or you can adapt. This is one of my personal favorites.

2. Jarrett J. Krosoczka: How a Boy Became an Artist

Jarrett Krosoczka is a successful author and illustrator of children’s books. In this 19-minute talk, he shares how he grew up and followed his dream to draw and write stories. He emphasizes how his art teachers guided him to become the artist he is today.

3. Adora Svitak: What Adults Can Learn From Kids

Adora Svitak is a child prodigy who travels the world speaking on behalf of children’s literacy. In this 8-minute talk, she challenges everyone to respect the creative thinking of children.

4. Dustin Yellin: A Journey Through the Mind of an Artist

In this 8-minute talk, Dustin Yellin takes the viewer through his personal growth as an artist. From 8-years-old to the mesmerizing work we see today, upper-level art students will benefit from seeing the growth of this artist.

5. Vic Muniz: Art with Wire, Sugar, Chocolate and String

At the end of this 15-minute talk, you will feel like you just walked through a gallery with the artist who created all the images on display. It is wonderful to listen as Vic Muniz walks you through his creative process and shares some of his artwork.

6. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius

After writing her bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert found herself struggling to meet the expectations of those around her. In this 19-minute talk, she shares her thoughts on the idea of the “creative genius” and how it applies to the expectations we have for artists.

7. Brian Dettmer: Old Books Reborn as Intricate Art

I spent all 6 minutes of this video glued to the screen. I just couldn’t believe what Brian Dettmer is able to do with old books. This talk is inspiring to teachers and could be even more so to your students.

8. Shea Hembrey: How I Became 100 Artists

In this 17-minute talk, Shea Hembrey explains how he invented 100 different “artists” and their artwork. He shares the creativity and skills required to create an entire art show by yourself, all while pretending to be someone else.

9. Tracy Chevalier: Finding the Story Inside the Painting

I love the best selling book Girl with a Pearl Earring that Tracy wrote, so when I saw her talk I knew I had to watch. Over the course of 14 minutes, she challenges you to really look at the artwork you see and to discover “the story” behind the images. This talk could be a great way to start an art history lesson.

10. Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

I would be remiss if I didn’t share this 20-minute talk where Sir Ken Robinson shares his views on how modern education doesn’t value creativity. There is a bit of “preaching to the choir” with this talk, but it would be valuable to share with others.

So, now it’s your turn. I challenge you to watch one TED talk a day and come back here to share the ones you love. And, before you go, I’ll leave you with one last video that speaks to ALL teachers.

Rita Pierson: Every Kid Needs a Champion

How could  you use TED talks in your classroom?

What is your favorite TED talk? Share it here!

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Carlisle

Jennifer Carlisle, a middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She loves exploring and teaching art through both traditional and digital art mediums.

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