Schools Need Art

Schools need art. They need to create art and they need to see art. After several years of observing children, often my own, I state this opinion with conviction and passion. I usually steer clear of any topics that could potentially get me in hot water, but as a mother, artist, and wanna-be educator, I feel like I need to talk about this from the perspective of someone who really needed art during her school years and as someone who sees art being disregarded as an “accessory” for her children in the near future as they journey through the education system.

This became so clear to me during the Cherry Creek Arts festival in July. I knew that was a big supporter of art education, but I really didn’t know much about the programs they were doing. One specific program they put together is sponsored by Janus Henderson and this generous company provides 24 area schools with a 500.00 budget to purchase artwork for their schools. Groups of students visit booths and work with assisting adults to select pieces that will become part of their school’s permanent collection. Two of my pieces were selected for two different schools. I had the chance to speak with the students and share about my work. I had their rapt attention and I could tell they were soaking it all in. Once the artwork was selected, the students took their purchases to a large tent for display where they would explain why they purchased the work.

You may wonder why this had such an impact on me. Sure, I sold some work...but it wasn’t that at all. What was so special was seeing their expressions, catching their excitement to be giving something so unique and valuable to their school. There was a complete sense of ownership and pride in what they were doing. This meant a lot to them. You know why? Because kids need art which is why schools need art. They were claiming responsibility in making their place of education beautiful. Not only does this help them take pride in their school, this will increase their respect and honor for the school, probably making their time more enjoyable and profitable. Art is powerful and can do things that rules and hall monitors cannot. Art touches hearts and transforms attitudes. Makoto Fujimura, an international art educator and painter, speaks about the power of beauty and how it transforms.

“Beauty is the quality connected with those things that are in themselves appealing and desirable. Beautiful things are a delight to the sense, a pleasure to the mind, and a refreshment for the spirit...When we encounter beauty, we want to slow down and partake of its refreshment, to let it reorient us to our deepest longings and reconnection us to our deepest selves... “ (“Culture Care”, pg 50)

We need beauty and the creative disciplines help us focus on this ethereal, transformational quality.

Education has changed so much throughout the decades. Math and science has become superior to the liberal arts in many eyes, but I think this is a grave error that will end up stunting our children terribly, intellectually, socially, and emotionally.

Throughout elementary school all the way through my senior year in high school, art class was my favorite. I thrived in art. When math was difficult or I struggled with science or my eyeballs were were swimming with history dates, I knew I could count on my art classes to bring me back to center. Keith Oelschlager, a high school art teacher in the Arvada area, speaks about this in a recent conversation I had with him.

“...without [the arts] many kids really couldn’t survive school. Sitting for 8 hours a day is torture. Literal torture. I can’t do it. How can I expect them to? It’s a way to kill spirit. So arts provide a slim ray of hope that the world can be more than the 3 r’s. I know that 99.99% of my students won’t grow to be artists but it doesn’t matter. It’s how we create appreciation for all arts and also how we create advocates for the arts…”

So, what does this mean for us as parents, artists, and community members?

  • It means that we thank and show appreciation for the art educators in our school systems. It means we fight for funding to allow art programs to stay alive in our schools.

  • It means we start programs like Janus Henderson in our local towns so that our kids can bring beauty into their places of education.

  • It means that artists take some time out of their busy schedule to tell kids about their art and how they too can become creatives.

Together, we can help our children blossom in all areas: math, science, reading and the arts. And this makes for an excellent adult with the tools to change the world.

What do you think? I would love to start a discussion about this topic, so share your thoughts in the comments!

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