The recent downsizing – and in some places deletion – of art programs in K-12 schools has made many college students quite thankful that they graduated high school before the recession hit. Many of us can’t imagine how we would have gotten through a school day without our art or music classes. It will now be up to the teachers in the major content areas to bring the arts into the lives of students.
So, why are the arts so important? The answer to this question is simple, yet complex and can be found in the teacher tube video “The importance of Art Education.” Although the video focuses specifically on art classes, the message relates just as well to music programs as well. That message is that the arts bring students together across cultures, classes, races, and social groups. The arts allow students to express themselves without words. Art and music are languages that everyone can speak and understand. Art classes can have a positive effect on student attendance and their work in other classes. The benefits the arts provide children should provide a great argument for art education should be a priority in schools.
According to eutopia.org’s article,”Why Arts Education is Crucial,” and Who’s Doing it Best, not all schools are underestimating the importance of the arts. Many of them still see the connection between the arts and improved grades in other subject areas. A new understanding of how the arts affect cognitive abilities has pushed some schools into not only expanding their arts programs but also using the arts to teach other content areas such as math. These schools look at the arts as a way to succeed in the No Child Left Behind initiative instead of a roadblock to success. However, not all schools feel this way and because of the years of neglect some schools have shown to the arts program it will take years to build them back up to where they should be.
The teaching channel video “Combine Academics and Dance with 4 Basic Moves” illustrates how a teacher one teacher incorporates dance moves to teach her students about shapes, movement, and other science content. The interactive lesson has students physically participating in the class and allows for a deeper understanding of the topics discusses. The physical aspect of the lesson also allows for the teacher to be visually aware whether or not her students understand the material.
While art programs in the K-12 grade levels are disappearing, they are expanding in higher education. More and more colleges are building art museums on their campuses. In the recent article, “Art Museums Giving it the Old College Try,” the New York Times reports on several campuses that focusing on creating art exhibits with contributions from other content area courses. These wonderful projects show how easy it is to not only incorporate the arts in education but how to incorporate education into the arts.
In another New York Times Article, “Teaching Children the Value of Pre-Web Pages,” Karen Jones discusses a classroom in which the students are designing and making their own illuminated manuscripts from scratch. Furthermore, in this situation, from scratch definitely means from scratch. The students even make their own paints from ground up insects, minerals, and plants. By making their own manuscripts these students are learning to appreciate the process and the products even more and at the same time they become part of the group that is trying to keep illuminated manuscripts from disappearing. The students involved in this project learned a great deal about museums, art, and science.
Another museum related project is also underway at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. After selling the buildings relegated for art classes the museum went to an expert on creating a space from recycled materials. The end product was black shipping containers with glass walls in which students could take art classes and work on their own artwork. This allows people visiting the museum to get an inside look into the art process starting with the education end of it. Students using this new space are also given the opportunity to be in the center of museum life; meeting museum staff and artists, visiting galleries, and attending museum events.
All of these videos and articles share a respect for the arts, and although not all of them focus on the arts in higher education it is safe to say they impact higher education. It is important for students to come in contact with the arts at a young age so they are able to appreciate them later on in life and feel comfortable with art used at the college level. Eventually the impact of not having the arts in K-12 schools may start to flow onto college campuses and impact higher education programs.