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Where Did Vincent Van Gogh?
One of my favorite memories from elementary school was every other Friday when I would have the chance to attend a class that was in my eyes a glorious utopia of magnificent pencils, colorful crayons, vibrant pastels, rich watercolors, dark inks, and bristly brushes. It was my chance to allow my creativity to flow from my mind and onto paper using a kaleidoscope of colors and a mountain of utensils at my disposal. It was a glorious reward to have messy hands and stained clothing because my project would lie before me, a perfect “masterpiece”. And when the class was over, I would wait, excited and impatient, for the two weeks to speed by, when I would once again get to return to this paradise.
I loved art from the very beginning. The concept is beautiful in nature. It is an expression of ideas, thoughts, and emotions and can capture singular moments or even entire time periods.
However, my favorite memory from elementary school is bittersweet. The chance for creative expression only came every other week. It was then that I started questioning the school’s incorporation of art, and I still do. Why is there so little art in our curriculum? Why, as students, do we have so little exposure to art and so little opportunity to create it?
This lack of representation of art in school isn't limited to only my elementary school. It exists within all the elementary schools in the community. And as I have progressed through middle school and am nearing the end of high school, I look back and see that this is a common trend. In middle school students take only one semester of art and have no opportunity for extra art courses. And in high school students take only a single semester and any extra art courses are limited to the in school schedule. And the worst part is that this extends beyond my community and is present nationwide. According to an article, “Art Education,” published by the University of Michigan, “art is pushed aside and the department’s budgets are increasingly cut in favor of so-called core education classes such as math and reading.”
Of course my high school presents an assortment of art classes. However, a student can only take them during school, which can be a severe limitation. There are only so many periods in the day and many of these are already occupied by required courses. Consequently, there are only a few periods left and art is left being “squeezed in.” Sometimes there isn't even enough room in the schedule for art at all.
Why it is that art is so limited in schools? Looking back it doesn't make sense. High school integrates into its curriculum all sorts of subjects. Of course required subjects such as math, science, English, foreign language, history, and so forth are critical for the future, but what is it exactly that makes art not important enough to teach at the same weight as these subjects?
Art is creative expression of thoughts and emotions. It offers those who pick up a pencil or paintbrush, a camera or clay, to express themselves. Art has no rules or formulas, something vastly different from the required courses during the day. Art can offer an outlet and a different way of thinking.
Art is also history. Paintings, photographs, and sculptures trace the eras – the mindsets, the revolutions, the battles. By looking at art, we can gain insight into the past. And yet, schools do not teach art to its full potential. Rather, the school requires only one semester. And history classes spend very little time teaching the past through art because it is minute part of the curriculum.
More than teaching history, art improves other aspects of school and beyond. A study by James S. Catterall, a professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles, concluded that the arts helped students excel in standardized testing. Elliot Eisner, a professor at Stanford University found that “Learning through the arts promotes the idea that there is more than one solution to a problem, or more than one answer to a question.” Art isn’t only expression and education, but also intellectual stimulation. Students begin to look outside the box, which can make them more open-minded in school with answers and solutions, but also socially with people and cultures.
Some people even propose the elimination of art in school altogether. This scares me. People should not eradicate the already limited presence of it in education. That would be like diminishing art in its entirety. Art is a part of culture that should be enjoyed and celebrated, encouraged and continued because offers it provides the opportunity for expression of thoughts, emotions, and moments. It allows us to look at the past and it allows us to develop a more rounded way of thinking.
And it is precisely the lack of attention towards art that is molding the mindset of many students that art is dismissible. “Art class” is becoming synonymous with “blow-off class” in this generation. The only people attending the art shows in school are the actual participants. A long valued aspect of human nature is losing appreciation.
I believe that art should be restored in education. It should be weaved into the curriculum more – to inspire and allow expression of creativity, teach history, and to improve the all around education and social skills of students. Artistically motivated students should have a larger freedom to engage in art courses. This resurgence of art would make it a larger part of our culture because students would have more exposure to art and its benefits. A more positive outlook on the arts might begin to develop and it might once again reach its full appreciation.
I remember in elementary school when we had art class we would all try and gather as many supplies as we could to work on our projects. Almost every supply would be grabbed up except for the white crayon, which nobody really used. Art should not become like the white crayon of the crayon box.