So what are the benefits of a strong visual arts program at school?
What do the visual arts have to offer? Besides skills in drawing or painting, how can visual art lesson benefit students?
Visual literacy – The digital world, is a predominately visual world and visual literacy in this world is an important 21st century skill. In Thomas L Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” he states that aesthetics and creativity are just as important as technical knowledge in the new economy.
Creativity - In so much of school uniformity of outcome is the aspiration, and many subjects require that. Art projects which value diversity, originality and uniqueness, can be liberating for many students. Visual art is one of the best ways to teach creativity which can then globalize to other areas of study. Well taught, art is problem solving, innovation and taking risks. Students can be encouraged to critique their work, questions like: – Is this working? Is this what I intended? Can I make this better? What next? These are questions which promote a lifelong way of learning and an approach which many subjects will benefit from.
Art taught well uses sophisticated forms of cognition. The combination of abstract and concrete thinking found in visual arts is what is taught at higher levels of all subject areas including science and maths.
Confidence and Self-esteem – Well taught visual art classes can give less academic students an opportunity to shine. For some children who may be slower to finish in academic subjects, it may be the only time they design and complete a project themselves. This is a valuable skill to take into other parts of their life and can be a real confidence builder.
For the more academic student, art offers an opportunity to extend themselves. These students often haven’t had the chance to step outside of their comfort zone because academic learning is so comfortable for them. Some high achieving students learn not to take risks or are fearful of making mistakes because they are so used to doing things well. The inherent risk taking in creative projects builds resilience and extends the student in a very different way. Visual art is an opportunity to create a project within parameters, plan the project and see it through to completion and end up with a physical object to feel proud of.
Art has the capacity to engage the disengaged student and ignite a spark in the unmotivated. For some students it can even be the catalyst to global change in their entire attitude to school.
Skills Development – Art is not craft just as literature is spelling and grammar. But craft is an important aspect of art. It is vital that teachers are equipped with skills and knowledge so they are able to teach art well. Basic skills in drawing composition and colour mixing can be taught and provide a foundation for creativity to spring from.
Extend other Subject Areas – The cross curricular opportunities in art are endless, exploring different aspects or a greater depth of other subjects. Art is not craft or colouring in done at the end of the day, it is engaged in ideas. The concepts explored in art, can add a depth of understanding and an interdisciplinary approach.