Do I mean that all art experiences that are not STEAM connected are worthless. NO WAY! Art for art's sake is fine, experimenting is fine, crafts are fine, but to call them STEAM experiences because there could be STEAM connections is very different from lessons that DO have STEAM content. Calling a lesson STEAM, when it is clearly not, sets a bad example and shows a lack of understanding.
Personally I have been doing STEAM lessons since I began teaching art in 1990, long before there was a name for it. I also incorporate English when we plan, write, and critique. I include social students when we talk about the arts of cultures, but STEAM is a big part of what I do. I didn't do it because it was somehow better, I did it because it felt natural, and I personally loved all those science and math connections. STEAM is in all the lessons I post on this blog because it's just how I see the world.
To me it is natural to pull out a prism when talking about color theory and speak about the properties of light. Students have a "Wow - That's Cool" moment. When appropriate I speak about transparency, translucency, opacity, or the reflective properties of color. I am a nutty nerd that way. I geek out when TEDed offers a new art related video like this one. I have many video resources listed HERE for free.
When we do perspective, I take the time to talk about the geometry of what we are doing and the historical connections to the Renaissance. When we do plaster projects, I talk about endothermic and exothermic reactions. There are STEAM opportunities everywhere but it is up to you to choose to take the time to show the connections or to choose not to. I know every art lesson is STEAM connected but I also know that even without the STEAM connections being discussed, students can have great art experiences in their art class.
For me, as an art teacher in a public school, I have evidence that my students benefit from me overtly taking about how art is connected to all their subjects in school. My students outscore their peers of exams like the SAT by an average of 155 points the last time my district checked. To me it's not a trendy hot topic, but the way I have always taught art. It may be an educational fad at the moment, but it has been and will always be the way I teach art. There is a quantifiable benefit to an inter-curricular approach.
STEAM does not dilute what we do, nor is it a crutch or fad to justify an art department. Just look at the work of Leonardo da Vinci, his was as STEAMy as it gets. I think it's more honest to say that only in the last 100 years art has moved toward an "art for art's sake" attitude, when for hundreds of years before now, artists moved from painting, to architecture, to engineering, to biology as naturally and you and I breath.