Above image by art advocate and teacher, Brandie Pettus, http://createartwithme.blogspot.com/
Art education is at risk.
There’s no doubt about it, public investment in schools has declined dramatically. As schools focus limited resources on standardized test subject areas, funds for art education have taken a big hit. Whenever school budgets are tight, the arts are vulnerable. Additionally, No Child Left behind legislation has led schools to increase class time spent on math and reading significantly, often at the expense of other subjects, including art. As a result, in the last several decades, there’s been a sharp decline in arts education, causing many schools to find creative ways to supplement art budgets, fund docent programs, and stock their art room with supplies through art fundraising companies like SilverGraphics Art Fundraising.
There’s proof that art education is important for our youth.
A growing body of research points to the importance of art education. The Brookings Institute performed a large-scale study to examine the effects of a sustained reinvigoration of school-wide arts education. They found that a substantial increase in arts educational experiences has remarkable impacts on students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes. It leads to higher school engagement, the ability to think about things in new ways, and the capacity to empathize with others. These qualities are crucial at this time of heightened intolerance and conflict. In a different study by the Guggenheim Museum, students who participated in art programs showed improved literacy and critical thinking skills.
Many educators and art-advocates argue the value of art education beyond academic performance. They point to intrinsic benefits like increased confidence and problem-solving skills. Art activities focus on producing things rather than simply remembering or analyzing, a whole-game approach that fosters creativity, strengthens critical thinking and promotes risk-taking. Importantly, it can also improve school climate and enhance mutual respect, empowering students with a sense of purpose and ownership.
Without early arts exposure, a cumulative effect occurs across generations.
It turns out that art educational experiences early on affects art participation later in life. The effect of decreased arts education follows us into adulthood. People who have not developed an understanding and appreciation of art are less likely to invest time and resources in art-making or art attendance. Why is this important? Art-centric adults prioritize art and advocate for it. Absent this, art education loses momentum for generations.
Americans overwhelmingly support art education.
Parents intuitively understand the significance of art engagement and are stepping in to fill the gaps. According to Americans for the Arts public opinion survey, nine in every ten Americans agrees that the arts are important for a well-rounded education. Increasingly, parents are encouraging their kids to participate in arts programs outside the classroom. Although parents are busier than ever, many prioritize art experiences, taking their kids to plays, music events, museums, and cultural events.
The benefits of art education extend into the workforce.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an organization formed through the efforts of the U.S. Department of Education and leaders of some of the nation’s leading high-tech corporations, has specified creativity and innovation as higher-order skills necessary for college preparedness and success in today’s workforce.
Ultimately, there is no better place for widespread art instruction than in schools. While non-school arts education programs are vital resources, schools are the only institutions that have the potential to deliver arts education to all children. It is imperative to consider the importance of art education in cultivating the next generation of leaders.
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