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The Importance of Art Education
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"The Importance of
Art Education"


From the lecture "The Academic Patriarch: An Apologetic for Visual Art" presented at the "Midwest Scholars Conference", Indiana Wesleyan University, 2/25/05 by Don Swartzentruber

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -Albert Einstein
 


Warsaw Art Department Instructor talking about the importance of an art education .
Video created by high school student Chris Kennedy.





The intention of this paper is to offer evidence that visual art is essential and must be a part of education at all levels. I have broken down 35 essential benefits into 4 catagories; Cognition, Community, the Marketplace, and Pathos/Psyche. This is still a work in progress.

Cognition (awareness)


• Academic Opportunity:
The value of a liberal arts education in developing academic excellence cannot be overstated. Webster's describes the term academic as, "relating to literary or art rather than technical or professional studies." Art is at the summit of the academy. "Learning may be a much more rich experience than we currently understand. If art and music are cut from a curriculum, you may be losing more than the piece you're leaving out." -Gardiner. (1). Even the term art suggests mastery. (i.e., the art of science would suggest that one goes beyond mere technical studies and actually takes on a higher level of skill and understanding). For this reason the music industry has come to favor the term artist over musician.
The Toledo Blade reports, "Under No Child Left Behind, arts education was listed as a core subject for the first time in federal education law. But reports over the past several months have documented that arts classes are getting squeezed out of schools because the federal law doesn't require that students be tested for their proficiency in art, music, dance, or drama. MacPherson, Karen. "Fight urged to keep art from being left behind". The Blade (Toledo, Ohio), Page B1, July 18, 2004.

Art Appreciation:
Only a participant can fully appreciate the nature of running a marathon. Likewise, holding a brush, placing a metal plate in an etching bath, or pulling a cylindrical form on the potter's wheel ushers membership into a foundational understanding of the studio. This is arguable the first step to appreciating art.

Creativity & Imagination:
While the process may start with parameters and structure, it eventually becomes an exercise in divergent thinking. Predictable calculations and mathematical formulations often prove inadequate to the power of creative conceptualization. Richard Riley (Secretary, Department of Education) said, "If [Americans] are to succeed and to contribute to what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan describes as our "economy of ideas,' they will need an education that develops imaginative, flexible and tough-minded thinking. The arts powerfully nurture the ability to think in this manner…through engagement with the arts, [individuals] can better begin lifelong journeys of developing their capabilities and contributing to the world around them."

Critical thinking:
A critical mind facilitates heightened awareness by taking intellectual risks and avoiding simplistic interpretations. Art provides ample opportunity to move away from black and white assumptions and into a spectrum of divergent pedagogy.

Curiosity:
Art fights apathy and nourishes an inquisitive spirit. An instrument in research via diagrams, charts and other visual manifestations, art stimulates the desire to investigate. It accommodates trial and error research without the limitations of hard science. (i.e, Da Vinci robot designing in 1495 probably never went beyond his sketchbook during his lifetime). These hands-on explorations often result in extraordinary serendipity. An unpredictability that pushes free from uniformity.

Design:
Art governs the laws of design (elements): line, shape and form, value, color, space, and texture (principles) balance, unity, contrast, emphasis, pattern, movement and rhythm. This structure affects all visual and tactile experience in the sciences and humanities.

Direct: Mental Image to Physical Image:
Georges Braque said "Painting is a nail to which I fasten my ideas.(2) " There is a tremendous power in being able to render those things the mind can conceive. While it is true architectural structures and patient inventions might be described orally or in writing, the simulation powers of a direct visual representation from the minds eye is irrefutable.
(2) Recalled on his death 31 Aug 63

Interdisciplinary/Multidisciplinary:
Art is exploration in a variety of disciplines. Cartography for transportation, diagrams for the scientist and mathematician, and illustrations for clarity and understanding. In education, art provides cooperative learning for a wide range of curriculum, (i.e. Ceramics teacher using chemistry to mix glazes). "If the arts are to help define our path to the future, they need to become curriculum partners with other disciplines in ways that will permit them to contribute their own distinctive richness and complexity to the learning process as a whole" (3).
(3) Fiske, Edward B. Editor. Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning. The Arts Education Partnership and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. p.40

Objective & Subjective Solutions:
Visual Art allows for the interesting dichotomy of answers and assessments. While it is true that there is often more then one answer in art, not all answers are equal. Much of what results into artistic style is the practitioner's adherence or abandonment to the laws of nature (i.e. Picasso toying with linear perspective). Artists spend less time look for "the answer", and more time aligning themselves along continuums of allegory (theme) and abstraction (methods and materials). Juan Gris said, "You are lost the instant you know what the result will be."

Observation & Perceptual Skills:
Awareness transpires in layers and is attained through focus. Contrast the legendary Native American scout walking through the forest, with a teen camper, from Jellystone wearing an iPod. They will process the landscape, wildlife, sense of direction, and evidence of other mammal activity in the woods, differently. Much of the visual information around us remains concealed as our perception lack sensitivity. Reproduction heightening ones awareness of the original artifact or environment. Most artist view observation as the initiation into aesthetic disciplines. With a qualified understand of the laws of nature, the artists is more skilled to break, bend, exaggerate, and distort observable information to create desired effects. William Blake affirmed this when he said, "Man's perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception." Better, in the words of William deWitt Hyde, simply "…count Nature a familiar acquaintance, and Art an intimate friend. (4) "
(4) Mills, Barry. The Importance of the Arts. Baccalaureate Address, May 28, 2004. Quoting William deWitt Hyde's "Offer of the College,"

Portfolio:
A tool for demonstrating the artist's skill and knowledge, the portfolio has becoming the buzzword for assessment. It comes as a stock portfolio that is described in investment newsletters with pie charts and bar graphs to high school history portfolios, with maps, portraits and essays. Educators are finding that the more personalized nature of the portfolio assessment facilitates long-term comprehension, and avoids rote short-term memorization. · Retention: 10% retention of audible material. 20% of material presented via text. 30% of material taught visually is retained. This statistic increases to 50% when the material is presented in a visual/audible manner. Art has been and will continue to be the exemplar of the portfolio.

Scholarship:
U.S. Department of Education states, "Research studies point to strong relationships between learning in the arts and fundamental cognitive skills and capacities used to master other core subjects, including reading, writing, and mathematics.(5) " "SAT scores of students who studied arts for more than four years were 59 points higher on the verbal portion and 44 points higher on the math portion than were the scores of students with no course work or experience in the arts ". (6)
(5)U.S. Department of Education, Aug 26, 2004 Improve Student Performance: Teacher Update.
(6) College entrance Examination Board 1995 study. "In an article published by Brown University, Study of Arts, Music May Enhance Young Pupils' Math and Reading Skills (1998), Martin F. Gardiner showed similar results at the elementary school level. "First Grade students who receive visual and musical arts training as a regular part of classroom studies showed improved reading skills and were significantly ahead in math skills compared to control groups in other first grade classrooms. By second grade, the group of students who received the arts training again was significantly ahead of the control group on math skills" the article reported. "


Community

Challenging Society:
Life frequently requires the process of persuasion and promotion. The artist has a unique opportunity to embrace this challenge visually. It can be used to propagate social change or challenge cultural norms. Historically artists, outside of the guild eras, have been at the forefront in cultural critique (i.e., Thomas Nast's political satire that toppled NYC mayor Boss Tweed).

Civility:
When a community supports an atmosphere of creativity and production over conquest and destruction, cultural bridges are built and our humanity is empowered. Terry Semel, former Warner Bros. Chairman, said, "Art is central to a civilized society." Artist can transcend ones narcissi for something greater then the self. Janet Reno, former U.S. attorney general, said "Young people who are involved in making something beautiful today are less likely to turn to acts of violence and destruction tomorrow." Dwight D, Eisenhower placed great responsibility on the shoulders of the artists. "For our Republic to stay free, those among us with rare gift of artistry must be able freely to use their talents…As long as artists are at liberty to feel with high personal intensity, as long as our artists are free to create with sincerity and conviction, there will be healthy controversy and progress in art. When artists (in totalitarian states) are made the slaves and tools of the state, when artists become the chief propagandists of a cause, progress is arrested and creation and genius are destroyed."

Communication:
The 4th domain of understanding is symbols and forms. Oral and written languages quickly encounter limitations. Visual communication remedies linguistic, cultural, emotional, and time restraints. Ernest Boyer, president of Carnegie foundation for the Advancement of teaching said, "Art is humanity's most essential, most universal, language. It is not frill, but a necessary part of communication."

Culture:
Art offers a tangible heritage. A culture without art or artifact is destined for obscurity. Even the Amish, who deliberately shun art, will primarily be remembered for their unique clothing and their quilts. Art helps people connect and experience their own cultural and divergent traditions. Art has been coined the soul of a nation or people, or as Beverly Sills suggests, "Art is the signature of civilizations." Our birthright is packaged with a certain accountability in carrying on community traditions, and many of those are esthetic in nature.

Documents & Records:
Images and artifacts are an essential part of establishing information. From Minoan fresco fragments to Andy Warhol serigraphs; or medical illustrations to courtroom drawings, art provides a very functional service in documentation. · Evaluation/Critique. Film and art come to mind when one suggests the title critic. The process of critique is nurtured in art classes, but it obviously far reaching in its usefulness. Art criticism provides an opportunity for inner disciplinary discussions on esthetics, politics, culture, religion and other subjects. In a studio practice editing, revising, and making concessions become routine. Often artists will collaborate, learning from each other as they express their working philosophy with each other. It also becomes a place to develop self evaluation/production-assessment, "what is working" "what doesn't work"


the Marketplace

Consumer Intelligence:
There is warranted rhetoric about Americans reveling in kitsch. Visual art enhances an individual's ability at collecting and assembling with esthetic sensitivity. If one has not been exposed to the breadth of fantastic painting it's becomes more plausible to view Kinkade as a modern day Rembrandt, Beanie Babies as worthy collectable, and soap operas as notable film. In Jamie Uys's The God's Must Be Crazy, the Coke bottle falls from an aircraft and becomes a sacred relic to an African bushman because he was not privy to such an object. When individuals are denied the process of making, critiquing, and studying art and art history, they become disadvantaged in the marketplace and advertising welds a greater impact on such individual's aesthetic judgment.

Drawing & Draftsmanship:
The name of our country/continent memorializes drafting with the Florentine cartographer, Amerigo Vespucci. Dr. Marvin Bartel (Goshen College) said "Persons who fail to learn to read and write lack self-esteem. The same is true for those who lack the ability to express themselves with drawing, but it is easier to slip by. Just as there are effective ways to teach reading and writing there are effective ways to teach drawing. But few generalist teachers know anything about them.(7) " T-Squares, CADD, and various other tools illustrate and solidify technical information that writing would make tedious. Drawing is also a remarkable instrument for capturing the fluency of ideas. Hand Eye Coordination: A steady hand that governs a drawing utensil and transforms the picture plan might also demonstrate fine-motor skills in an operating room. Great dexterity is demonstrated with the steady hand of an artist (Koster study) . (8)
(7)Bartel, Marvin, Ed.D. Goshen College. Letter to Board of School Trustees, March 21, 94.
(8) Eye-hand coordination -Koster, 1997. Fine motor skills Koster 1997


Functionality:
When art objects are functional they are typically referred to as crafts. There are many practical uses for artistic wares; among them furniture, clothing, pottery and throughout history art served religious functions.

Marketing:
Advertising executive Ernest Jones said, "Creativity not committed to public purpose is merely therapy or ego satisfaction.(9) " Images are an essential part of the marketplace, creating desire and encouraging impulsive purchases. The visual impact of products presides over issues of supply and demand as two similar objects can sell for varied prices based solely on packaging. The Agate Rule did not even allow 1840 advertisers to use artwork in newspapers.
(9) Address at Cranbrook Academy of Art, NY Herald Tribune 2 June 64.


Production:
The term is frequently used to describe film or one who makes a film. With the advent of calculators, computers, and robotics, we live in a culture where the production skills required are less laborious and more creative. Art is an extraordinary opportunity to produce. · Technology: Goodbye Greek architecture. Columns are now vertical row on your computer. And, those little icons on your computer screen are not sacred. Monitors, mouse, and graphics tablets assist users in a new world of multimedia. We have discarded our scissors and glue for cut and paste. More people gaze at icons and pixels, and spend less time with traditional media. While the mathematical sciences were instrumental in the early development of technology, the recent sibling seems to be visual art. Layers of animation fold out from World Wide Web pages. Much of PC technology is being pushed to facilitate the needs for better graphics and animation (i.e. game software demands). There also continues to be artistic responses that move contrary to technology. When students experience a process like etching and contrast it with the manipulations done on Photoshop they experience a stronger sense of direct hands-on processes.

Tools, Media & Materials:
Marc Chagall said he used "whatever medium like[d] [him] at the moment. (10)" Artist become experts in working with specialized tools and materials. Frequently they are self-taught authorities in mixing, heating, carving, fragmenting, assembling, etc.
(10) Recalled on his death 28 Mar 85

Vocational skill:
There are numerous ways artist receive fiscal compensation. Industrial and transportation design, architecture, animation, the apparel industry, video and photography, conservation and restoration, package design, layout and publishing, a studio practice in stain glass, ceramics, curatorial and exhibition activities, illustration, etc. Countless jobs are directly and indirectly related to the employment of individuals with artistic skills. The creative industries in Great Britain contributes to more of the gross domestic product then any of its manufacturing industries (11).
(11) "Destinations and Reflections: Careers of British Art and Design Students" by the Centre for Research in Quality (CRG) at the University of Central England in Birmingham


Pathos (deep feelings) and Psyche (soul, mind)

Biographical/Autobiographical Tool:
Art is a medium for artists and art patrons to assess identity, preferences, and philosophical dispositions. A forum for reflection on the condition of being human.

Goals & Objectives:
Blueprints, storyboards, flowcharts, and diagrams, solidify ideas. Most artists do not pre-conceive an exact facsimile of the project in their minds, but rather work towards a specific goal. This is based on a strand of philosophy or exploration that organizes a sometimes-enormous strands of goals. Art develops sequential thinking the pays with a physical outcome.

Individualism & Style:
Art has long been the troubadour of individualism and the avant-garde. Like fingerprints art gives opportunity to leave ones own unique mark. Style is the result of translating and transforming information into unique symbols. Visual elements offer sensuality to historical and contemporary considerations. While style is also essential to other forms of communication, visual art is the icon in determining culture, chronology and identity.

Recreational/Leisure Time Activity:
Scientists researching brain activity (theta waves) are finding positive connections with creative activity. It lowers blood pressure and builds the immune system. (12) Many senior Americans, like former President Jimmy Carter, find the joys in painting, crafts and various other creative hobbies to be enormously rewarding. Typically these activities are nourished through ones lifetime and when ample time is available they can avoid the throngs wasting away in front of the television. Alfred North Whitehead suggested, "Art flourishes where there is a sense of adventure".
(12) Robinson, Michael. "How Important is Art". Jamaica-Gleaner, March 10, 2002.

Self Esteem & Emotional Satisfaction:
When an individual contributes to society using booth hemispheres, they take pleasure in a more holistic existence. It is often assumed that nature and nurture nourished talent provides a foundation for esteem. Rather, its overcoming challenges and pushing beyond one's comfort zone that creates positive self-regard. Thus, art is a way all individuals can connect with various aspects of what it means to be human. The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities states even in children, "high-arts youngsters were far more likely than their low-arts counterparts to think of themselves as competent in academics" [and] "…far more likely to believe that they did well in school in general, particularly in language and mathematics .(13)"
(13) Fiske, Edward B. Editor. Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning. The Arts Education Partnership and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. p.40


Self-expression: Frank Rhodes, former president of Cornell University, said art is "a basic expression of human understanding. …It is no accident that art is ubiquitous and influential in every culture worth the name, from ancient embodiment of insight, an assertion of the human spirit. Education, unleavened by the sense of beauty and luminosity that art can provide, is a wasteland. The most sophisticated skill - whether technical or academic - is barren without the insight it provides. As in other attributes, so in this; the aim of education is to encourage the creative encounter, the reflective experience that can enrich every aspect of life. (14)" Visual Art teleports worldviews, fantasies, emotional dispositions, and the private chambers of the subconscious, from cranium to canvas. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, said "Nature is a revelation of God. Art, a revelation of man."
(14) Rhodes, Frank. The Creation of the Future.

Spiritual: There is something undeniably spiritual about the process of creating. God-like in its power, it offers a unique sense of accomplishment to the human experience. For many, it is an opportunity to explore the intangible. Greeley suggests, "We are interested in symbols that will illumine the darkness cast by mystery, rather than formulae to sweep the mystery away." Or, as Francis Bacons said," to deepen the mystery." This spiritual connection is a sibling to self-expression and manifests from the artist's philosophical and theological disposition.

Therapeutic: The psychological sciences have recently discovered art to be an effective tool in opening up a patient's inner world (i.e. art therapy). Considered less confrontational, working with images facilitates an opportunity for therapists to posture themselves, physically and emotionally, beside the patient. Long before its clinical appropriation, art practitioners have opted for images over words to examine the inner world.

Art is for everyone: Professor Howard Ikemoto said, "When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college-that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?" Gurdon Woods suggested that "Art is idea. It is not enough to draw, paint, and sculpt."

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