Thursday, August 02, 2012

Why art is important in education?

It is wonderful to experience children’s art. Some cat by a 5yr old - Picasso would be proud!
(Notes for a children’s art exhibition opening)

I don’t think it is necessary to tell children that art is fun but I want to tell the artists here today that art is also important – and particularly their parents.
Art is even as important as reading and maths but I am not sure many parents or children would think this – and not many teachers.
One amazing educator Sir Ken Robinson has said that creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy and that if we focus on reading and maths too much we will have the time discover the gifts and talents children have in other areas.
As important as reading and maths being creative, being keen to learn, to use ones imagination is far more important and most important of all is being confident to express one’s self without fear of being wrong – and art is great for developing this.
When I was a teacher I taught a girl whose dad (an accountant) at parent interviews questioned me about his daughters disinterested in maths, her untidy handwriting and her indifference to spelling. I tried to tell him she had gifts in other areas, she could dance, write poetry – and best of all she was the most caring student in the class. He didn’t seem impressed with me or his daughter. I had an e-mail from her a year or so ago thanking me for teaching her. She is now 40 years old, married and is an artist selling her work for $5000 a painting. It is difficult abstract work – I find it hard to understand myself. The funny thing is I never picked her as a future artist! And she said her dad is so proud of her. Two boys I taught were hopeless at reading and maths - one today is a top woodworker and kitchen designer and the other designs boats. You never know. It’s all about the gifts each child has.
Just imagine if schools were focused on developing everychild’s gifts. It wouldn’t be hard because they would be working with kids – not making them do things for adult’s reasons.
It would be easy because children are born scientists and artists. They ask questions until they learn not to – and they draw on everything. Wallpaper was my first art experience!
Art, someone said, is asking questions and drawing answers - I like that!

Art teaches important things about life:
You need to be able to experiment – look at what you’ve done – and then take the next step. There is no paint by numbers in art or life. It is all about give it a go and keep what works. Don’t worry about rubbing out – just draw or paint over the top.
The best art has an element of unknowablity about it.
As you start work the piece of art suggests ideas you might never have thought of. This is like life – you may have good intention but you have to go with the flow – know when to change your mind.
Another thing that I like about art, any kind of art, it starts off with an idea but soon gets really messy. Often at this point many people give in but if you can get through the messy confusing stage then good things happen. In this way art prepares you for many things that will happen in your life. You just got to keep going. All the best learning involves being confused and uncertain – being confused is part of life. There are no easy plans to use if you want to develop new ideas.
Art teaches about perseverance – not giving in.  Art is at first a messy business but slowly ideas begin to take shape.
Art is about doing fewer things well – not rushing through things. Good art involves real effort.

The best art is expressing something that is important to you – what you draw, paint etc. It should be your point of view not what others want. Art is not copying – good art is original.
Good artists are good observers or people andtheir environment. They are often the first people to notice things others taken for granted. Artists see and feel things – they have sharp senses – they have not lost these ways of exploring that all children were born with.

Sometimes what artists say is not appreciated by others – it is easier to do what others do or say – but not if you are a real artist.
Sometimes what is important for an artist is the idea they want to express, other times it the material or media that you work with that is the challenge.  Artists need to learn about skills and techniques, about how to use paint and other drawing material – but good art is far more than just good technique or being skillful.
It is almost impossible to decide what piece of art is best – some artists draw dead real, others boldly, others in an abstract way.  Art is about celebrating differences. Very young children are the real abstract painters – they just like making marks! Art is about leaving your mark. Graffiti is a form of art – often by people who are trying to tell others they exist! Even if it annoys people!
Art can be confusing – it makes you think. Strangely the best art takes time to like – van Gogh was never valued in his own lifetime but now his work is highly valued. So we have to be careful not to rush in to judge art because, all too often, we only select the kind of work we already like.  Difficult art grows on you.
Everything we do has an element of artistry about it – gardening, cooking, teaching, design, graphics fashion, information technology graphics, acting, dancing, maths, architecture, playing a musical, decorating, giving a speech – anything.
And going back to thinking that art is as important as any subject - artistic ability- artistic talents - lead to lots of future jobs.
Everybody needs to appreciate art but some students are lucky enough to have a real gift.

For these students whatever art form they use will be their life – they will be the lucky ones.
If you ever visit an artist’s home you will see that they enjoy all sorts of ways of thinking and they are often the best readers of all. Any many make use of lots of maths and science – especially the potters

So let’s hope there are future artist on display today and let’s hope everyone here learns to enjoy art in any form forever. And keep an eye out when you walk around for the different ones – future van Goghs.

Two very different 9 olds interpretationsof native bush
Don’t expect to understand everything on display– just enjoy the magic of what you see


Anonymous said...

Good stuff Bruce. The theme of your posting is an antidote to the narrowing of the learning experiences being created by the imposition of National Stndards.

I am afraid that much that passes as art in schools today does not reflect your thoughts. Much of what is seen is heavlily teacher directed and, becuse of such formulaic approaches, does not express students personal point of view or creativity.Often more decoration.

Belmont Schools said...

I totally agree with the fact that Art is even as important as reading and maths..It is good to have art included in our education..It is interesting work to do..

Bruce Hammonds said...

I fear you are right anon. A lot of "art" does appear "decorative" or part of a class exercise- step by step art.

Art ought to be seen as a real legitimate way of expressing something that often cannot be expressed as well any other way.

This more important intellectual approach might result when students are responding to personal experience, or an idea developed from something read, observed in the environment, or to express an idea from a class study.

If this were the case then art seen would be idiosyncratic - would represent the particular view of the artist.

I think this is the kind of art that is missing in our schools today?

Kim O'Brien said...

Hello from a cool day in spring from Tasmania, Australia.
Thank you for your wonderful, perceptive article. In Australia we are currently putting together a national curriculum for 'The Arts', however it is not getting the time table time it should receive nor is it getting the professional development funding it should, so the quality of teaching Visual Art Education, particularly in the Primary and Early Childhood are not as good as it should be. Hopefully when the new national curriculum comes on line in 2014 - some effort will be made to address these issues. The National Associations are working very hard but like the USA, they are battling the big issue of the 'assessment imperatives of Numeracy and Literacy - and the rest of the curriculum is being given lip service esp. 'The Arts' if taught at all. This is a destructive view of education and we are doing a disservice to our children and it will have repercussions in the future.
I am a newly started private Visual art consultant, after teaching for 37 years in our public school system and lecturing at the University of Tasmania & consulting work drafting Tasmania's state curriculum visual art documents - and I am extremely concerned at the recent trends in the treatment of Visual Art in the curriculum. Kim O'Brien (Mr.)

Bruce Hammonds said...

Greetings Kim - from a equally cool New Zealand Spring.

I think all Western countries are suffering from the same issues.
I couldn't agree more with what you say.

Unknown said...

You're right.Knowing in art and math is significant because its a wide help when we are in working and that is the best learning and experiences.

elisewrence said...

Participating in art activities helps children to gain the tools necessary for understanding human experience, adapting to and respecting others' ways of working and thinking, developing creative problem-solving skills, and communicating thoughts and ideas in a variety of ways.

Education Blog

Unknown said...

That picture is so cute, I can practically hear Picasso naming it! "Colorful Cat in Nature," or something along those lines, no doubt. I totally agree that art is just as important as math or reading. It really helps children open their minds and explore their talents. Awesome post.