How Important is Art Education?

Please forgive me while I stand on my soap box for a bit today.

I never wear shoes like this but maybe I should :0)

It's that time of year again. Your kids have either already started back to school or they will be there shortly. Does your child's school still have an art program? More and more schools across the nation are eliminating arts and music programs. If they replace them with anything at all it is sometimes with pseudo art instruction performed by an unqualified classroom teacher.

That statement is not meant to disparage classroom teachers, it is just that they are not trained arts specialists.  The major justification for ending arts programs is almost always budget. School districts are constantly complaining that they don't have a enough money for basic programs, so first on the chopping block is usually what administrators and parents see as the most extraneous and unnecessary programs- art and music.

Here are some of the common myths and justifications for deeming art as unnecessary and thereby eliminating it.

Every child is not a talented artist

Every child is not going to be an artist

Training children in the arts has no application to real world (job) success

Art is meant to help children "express themselves"

Here is what arts education really gives to your kids:

The number one most valuable thing that art education provides to your child:

It teaches them to THINK critically and innovate. It teaches them to TAKE RISKS and to see the BIG PICTURE.

Making art is not just about making pretty things or providing some slapdash approach to "self expression" devoid of rules and structure. There are rules in art- Elements and Principals of Design- which provides a framework for making good art and once understood, provides a vehicle for creating good art while breaking those rules and learning to innovate.

Art history provides a cultural framework and point of reference for history and innovation throughout time. Children without skill in creating art are still given an understanding of the cultural heritage of art, get exposed to great thinkers and artistic creators (ex. Picasso, Matisse) who broke from the mold of realistic art making to devise a new way of SEEING and creating.

Art is not always about the end product. The value of art education is more in the processes of creating art and learning about it than in the outcome of making a pretty picture.

Most other disciplines only work on finding right or wrong answers. There is no room for thinking out of the box or for creating a new paradigm. Children who are only being educated in these limiting disciplines will grow to only seek the correct (predetermined) answer, never being able to consider another option and will accept as irrefutable that which is spoon fed to him as fact.

We need to keep raising generations of Picasso's, Da Vinci's, Van Gogh's, Louise Nevelsons and even more Andy Warhol's, whose art was not just pictures of Campbell Soup cans, but a shrewd commentary on our massed produced society as a whole, a concept seen through an artists ability to view "the big picture."

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson- Royal Tide IV-Assemblage

The world needs both kinds of thinkers, both right brain and left. Here is a perfect example:

Steve Wozniak, a left brain tech head computer guy who, left on his own would probably have had his own small company or gone to work for IBM or Microsoft or Oracle or any other computer giant out there at the time.

Steve Jobs, a hippy dippy, right brain college drop out with an understanding of business,training in art and a devoted sense and love for beauty and good design.

It is the combination of these two very different types of talents that brought us all of the elegant and beautiful Apple computer products which many of us enjoy and other companies try to emulate.

The marriage of these two divergent genius brains resulted in something of a lightening strike which created (in my opinion) one of the greatest tech companies ever.

Steve Jobs (standing) and Steve Wozniak (at keyboard)

Is your kid going to be the next Steve Jobs or Picasso or Frida Kahlo? Maybe not. If given the benefit of a meaningful art education, what they can be is a well rounded human being who can think outside of the box, challenge the status quo, consider various answers to the same problem, create something from nothing, use the tools at hand in new ways and make cross cultural and historical connections.

Oh, and they may come home with a nice painting sometimes, too.

Frida and Me- © Karen O'Lone-Hahn