Michael Bingham used assignments for his students at Mountain Crest High School to help them experiment with creative problem solving. In one assignment, Bingham had his students build a futuristic robot in order to help students connect possibilities with imagination.
“We’re making them out of things that other people have thrown away," Bingham said. "So other people have deemed this material worthless - so that's our building materials. The problem that my students are trying to solve now with the assignment they have - each student had to pick a world problem so it could be something to do with global warming or pollution or something to do with helping people overcome a disability. They had to design a futuristic robot that would someday be able to fix this problem and then they got to build that robot.”
Teaching art is connected to the way Bingham creates his own work.
“I call myself a working artist or a teaching artist," Bingham said. "So what that means is I’m a working artist who also teaches. And it’s really important for me to always be building and creating and painting and doing my own project. And I think that helps the students when they see what I'm building - it kind of inspires them. They see that there are other people in the world that survive by making things. And I think it gives them more hope that maybe someday they can make things too."
While Bingham understands his inspiration for helping students, his own creative inspiration is more mysterious.
“There’s something inside that just says 'make this thing,;" Bingham said. "An idea will kind of haunt me. [I'll] see an image or something that I need to build or have an idea and it doesn't really go away until I build it, and I really enjoy building it. A lot of the things I make, I just make because I feel like they need to be made.”
Bingham was recently accepted into a master’s program in painting and drawing at Utah State University. He plans on focusing on creating more tools for people with special needs. However, this isn’t the first time that he has attempted to make art doable - in fact he’s already done several projects for different students.
“I built a power chair that one of my students could use as kind of a painting machine," he said. "So you put a big canvas on the floor and she was able to make paintings with that power chair. She also has attachments that she can draw with.”
Providing access for students with special needs is one side of Bingham’s activism. Along with this goal, Bingham believes that every student needs art.
“In some states their art programs are in danger," Bingham said. "When they need to add more math or science or things, they a lot of the times will cut the art program. I think that’s incredibly shortsighted. I think if you ever look at any kind of useful invention or creation you’ll see that it was more than just the science that helped figured it out. Somebody had an imagination along the way. And if we don’t also educate kids to use their imagination, they may have all of the knowledge in the world but they won't be able to do anything new with it."