“The difference between art and science is that science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else.” -Donald Knuth, American computer scientist, mathematician, and professor emeritus at Stanford University.
Parents love the performance, the big game, the recital; it’s a chance to have their child in the spotlight and have bragging rights, too! I love theater, dance, and music and I enjoy seeing children on stage, and all are important components of a well-rounded education. But what about the visual arts? There is rarely applause, but painting, drawing, and sculpture are just as important to the education of a child and to our society as the performing arts. The joy a young child feels when they create an artwork is magnified by the fact that their creation can be shared with their classmates and family. The knowledge that your art can bring joy to others is empowering. It’s an opportunity for a child to have a positive effect on their world.
Why should children participate in art class? Creating a painting is personal; the artist can communicate feelings they may have no words to express. Gaining an understanding of their emotions can help a child develop compassion and caring for others and for themselves.
The abilities of their classmates have a strong effect on a child’s sense of worth. Excelling in a subject and being proud of your work is crucial to self-esteem. By focusing only on Science and Math we leave a large percentage of children vulnerable to making false assumptions about their ability to succeed in the world. Developing self-discipline and the courage to keep going is something that the visual arts can develop in a child. Creating more and more artwork, the student’s skills and understanding of the process of making art develops, as does their ability to communicate their thoughts and ideas.
Arts education is crucial if we are to have a society that is literate, able to solve problems, and think creatively. These skills are needed in the rapidly changing 21st century. The procedures used in making an artwork are a mixture of knowledge; some of it technical, acquired experience, and on-the-spot intuition.
It’s my belief that everyone can learn to draw, paint, or make a sculpture, but most children are never given the intellectual tools or the opportunity. Creating artwork takes an accumulation of experiments to reach the place where all the elements and principles come together for success. This process should start early and continue through elementary school at the very least. Years of exploring and experimenting will help a child develop an understanding of what it means to be a creative thinker. Practice is important; not everything that’s created will become a finished artwork, but each attempt will be a step in the development of skills and expand the artist’s knowledge. Art can set students on a path that leads to a life of creative thinking, problem solving, and the joy of making and appreciating art.