In the social media circles I frequent, I hear about the difficulty in obtaining and maintaining funding for art education in public schools. I also hear many art teachers face a lack of respect and support compared with teachers of other subjects. Everyone seems really gung-ho about teaching coding, for example – which I agree is a wonderful thing – but I don’t understand why some think this should be at the expense of art. Not so! I’m a professional who is both creative and technical, so to me it’s so clear that this isn’t an “either/or” situation. That’s why STEAM education speaks to me so much. So I just wanted to share my top reasons why I think art education is so important. Maybe this will help in some small way to advocate for art education in all schools.
You kids’ art teachers aren’t just teaching them to paint and sculpt. They are developing their creativity, as well as crucial problem solving and critical thinking skills. This is important in ANY field!
I’ve found myself telling people: I’m a software engineer, and I wouldn’t be as good at it if I hadn’t had the early childhood art education that I was fortunate enough to receive. It taught me to think outside the box, to imagine things that don’t exist yet, and to have confidence in my original ideas. All of this has served me very well throughout my life when I write code, inventing things and solving complex problems.
Some of the most satisfying and highly paid career paths are artistic. For example, I worked for many years in computer animation and visual effects. It was amazing. I got to make money doing something I actually loved, and I often couldn’t believe it was my job. I also got to travel to some fantastic places around the world, and meet lots of interesting people, which opened my eyes to even more intriguing jobs and career paths all around me – all manner of designers and creative professionals.
These days I work on my apps, and having an artistic background is incredibly helpful in the design process. I also feel like I’ve struck gold every time I find a good artist or designer who might do some work for me. These are valuable abilities in the workforce!
Of course it’s not just about money, I just mention that because many people might not realize that a career in the arts doesn’t have to mean lack of financial success or stability. There are many options out there.
While this isn’t the only purpose of art education, your child may be meant to be an artist of some kind, or in some creative career where their art education is directly helpful. And it will be harder for them to find their way there and succeed without that early exposure to art classes.
Art teachers make sure kids learn a myriad of other things besides art itself. So much history can be learned through studying the artists of the past. Social studies and geography come with learning about art from around the world, both past and contemporary. Geometry is in the shapes and physics in the color theory. Countless STEAM activities will show you how art can involve STEM. And learning to observe art, or subjects we are attempting to depict, teaches overall observational skills.
Some people learn more visually than others. Many kids might struggle to understand certain concepts, or develop particular skills. Maybe words get jumbled up in their heads, or numbers seem devoid of meaning and context. Yet in an art room environment, they thrive, and the pieces of all sorts of puzzles might start to fit together in their minds. That’s kind of the point of STEAM activities! This is also a great argument for arts integration, using the arts to to complement specific academic lessons, which is a whole other interesting discussion.
Let’s not forget, art is fun, and a wonderful outlet for all sorts of feelings. Furthermore, the love and appreciation of art will stay with us and help us enjoy the beauty and culture all around us throughout our life. These important seeds get planted in school art rooms every day, and last a lifetime! Don’t we wnt that for our kids?
Given all these advantages to learning to create and appreciate art, it’s clear why art should be part of the curriculum in public schools. Many kids have little or no other access to art education. So it’s all the more important to keep art alive in schools any way we can, and appreciate the valuable work that art teachers do every day!