The Crisis of Fine Arts Education

By | May 15, 2017

In these days of budget cuts and limited resources, it’s often the case that fine arts classes are the first to be cut. This is unfortunate, since a well-rounded education must include the arts. Studying the arts, whether in the academic study of art appreciation, or learning how to actually do art, is crucial to teach young people how to think creatively and independently. Some studies have shown that students that participate in a strong art education program demonstrate higher performance in other academic areas. Expert conjecture this is due to the fact that when people do art, they exercise the right hemisphere of the brain, where higher reasoning functioning occurs.

Art education is an area of learning based upon the visual, tangible arts, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, and design in jewelry, pottery, weaving, and fabrics. These days, it includes photography, video, film, design, and computer art.

The first art schools were mentioned by Plato in 400 B.C. Art was taught in Europe through the Method system for centuries. Artists, like most guilds, took on apprentices who learned their trade. During the Renaissance, more formal training took place in art studios. Design was emphasized more than the fine arts, so schools of design were founded throughout Europe during the 18th century. In modern times, art education takes place across the generations in community-based institutions and organizations like museums, local arts agencies, recreation centers, places of worship, social service agencies, prisons, and schools.

There are thousands of art education curricular models, or ways to teach art appreciation and how to do art. Some experts insist that drawing is the basis of all Western art education, at least since the Renaissance. Once you teach someone how to draw, they say, you can teach them all other forms of art because drawing is an empirical activity that involves seeing, interpreting, and discovering the appropriate marks to reproduce an observed phenomena.

Many state that an important part of a well-rounded education is at least a basic understanding of art history, including the numerous movements in art throughout the ages. A good understanding of art history, however, includes more than memorizing artists, their works, and when they were created. It involves an understanding of the trends in the art world. Even artists should have a good comprehension of the history of art, if they are to find out how they wish to express themselves to the world.

A good artist needs both an in-depth education in the history and appreciation of art and lots of studio time. Most art schools devote thirty percent of their coursework to academic fields of study, like art appreciation and art history. How can you develop your artistic vision if you don’t know what’s gone before?

It has been said, “We stand on the shoulders of giants.” This is especially true in the art world. You need to be able to answer when someone asks who your influences are. What does it mean to be a post-modern painter, for example? Or an abstract impressionist? Only a well-rounded education in the arts will help you answer those questions, and how they apply to you and your work.

Peter Dranitsin is a self taught and self representing abstract artist. He grew up in the family where his mother a professional artist and his father a professional photographer.