As an artist myself, I have a deep interest in how art is being used and misused in our schools. I cringe whenever I see a wall full of 8×10″ printouts that were given to the children to color in. And I almost hemorrhage when someone comments “how good they did staying in the lines.”
ART IS NOT A COLORING BOOK! ART IS NOT COPYING SOMEONE ELSE’S ARTWORK!
Art is a critical mode of self-expression for young children. It is fun and emotive. It is a language that tells many stories. It is more than just pretty pictures; through art, children can communicate some scary emotions. Being able to communicate non-verbally is more important than a pocketful of vocabulary words. Art has been linked to brain development and to better academic success. It is a vital and valid method of learning, and has been acknowledged as a critical gateway for students less inclined to see the relevance in the core curriculum.
When faced with budgetary and time constraints, arts programs are traditionally the first to go. And with the increased push to focus on testing, they are in even more danger. But art–REAL ART–is relevant for children (and all human beings) across all disciplines.
Art is child-driven. It allows them to take control. Art is unique. Art is individual. Art provides beauty. Art provides a platform for critical thinking. Art provides creativity in a world that is being more and more reduced to the production of the same.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, IF A CHILD CAN’T RECOGNIZE HIS OWN PICTURE FROM THE REST, IT IS NOT ART!
Of all the people I know, regardless of their chosen field, the most successful are the ones with an appreciation for art.