Tag Archives: Picasso

Preserve Arts Education; Preserve a Sense of Wonder.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. – Albert Einstein

My eldest is almost fifteen and is beginning the process of planning his high school and college “careers”. This proves to be a rather stress-inducing experience; apparently very different from the casual way I approached high school. Late the other night he admitted he was worried about choosing classes for the upcoming years. So, in the spirit of facing our fears we curled up together right then and went the through the high school graduation/college entrance requirements. The school had provided worksheets and lists which we dove into. Amongst scads of science, math, and language requirements I learned that of the 230 units required to graduate only 10 of those need to be in arts education.

This made me start thinking again about the lack of value we place on arts education and the consequence of this devaluing. This is evident in the currently proposed national budget; some members of the House of Representatives have proposed deep cuts or even total elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. This represents a huge loss nationally. On a more local level our school systems face severe budget crises and are viewing arts education as expendable – Leaving it acceptable to require only 10 units out of 230 for a young person to graduate from high school and enter college.

What is the cost of this devaluing? Put differently – what is the value in teaching kids arts? We teach art and teach about art because doing so:

  • sharpens critical thinking skills. Cassandra Whyte is credited with early work showing that artistic experiences develop creative and independent thought processes that are important throughout an individual’s lifetime
  • teaches innovative thought
  • widens perspective, encourages acceptance of generational, cultural, social and geographic diversity
  • teaches empathy and sensitivity to other’s experiences by exposing them to other world views, brings about a deeper understanding of the world
  • Therefore, teaching the arts nurtures skills that improve our kid’s future ability to work successfully in the global marketplace
  • calm the soul and brings beauty to daily life

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life – Pablo Picasso

  • preserves our cultural history and heritage; preserves our collective memory

My son and I filled in the worksheet with lots of science, language and math. And art? Well, not so much. He moaned at my suggestion of various art classes let alone art history. His groaning made me realize that I had before me, fodder for another great dinnertime conversation. Tonight I am going to ask them why I talk so much about the arts. Why I drag them to museums? Why we have lots of paint, pastels and paper? Why are our walls covered with art? They may generate some new ideas from my list above. I’ll get back to you with them.

If you want to help promote arts education yes, of course generate your own dinner table conversation. You can also look at the work of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund.

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“I’ll never be an artist!” or, how our talking about art at the dinner table started

This business of  teaching my three kids about art has several roots. I am most assuredly a frustrated artist. Frustrated mostly by lack of real talent. Frustrated partly by lack of time. So, without talent and time to make my own art I like to read about art, think about art and talk about art with anyone who will join in with me. It can be hard to find similarly obsessed partners but I was thrown a crumb of interest by my daughter years ago and have used it ever since as the cornerstone for a great ongoing family discussion. She was in preschool at the time. I found her in her bed feeling sad one evening and asked why?

“I’ll never be an artist” she said.

Why?

“Because my pictures never look like what they are supposed to look like”.

Now, she was in a fabulous, progressive parent cooperative preschool. One where part of the training of the participating parents was a lecture on how to encourage our budding artists.

“Never ask them what it is. Ask them to tell you about it!”

Even with this she still felt pressure. In her preschool world, enormous pressure. Her art did not look like what it was. Well! That was an easy one for me (the frustrated artist and college student of art history)! And, out spilled a nice lesson on abstract/modern art. Of how great, respected art often looked like…nothing much. I talked of Picasso, Rothko and Pollock. It was Pollock she grabbed onto as her own personal hero.

Why should you talk with your kids about art? Well for one thing, our schools can no longer afford to. With nationwide school budget struggles art has often been the first thing to be cut. If you don’t it,  teaching art may not be done at all. So, why do kids need art education in the first place? How about this? Study of art and the appreciation for the beauty in the world surrounding us has clearly been shown to improve student’s performance in school, especially for low-income students. But art education is important for all students:

At the heart of a solid education in the arts are the appreciation of beauty and the aesthetic qualities of our lives and society; the ability to communicate the ineffable through images, music and movement; and the appreciation of diverse cultural expressions“.

The quality of the art education left in schools varies. All too often our children are given a pen, crayon or brush with a blue print to follow. My eldest was corrected for using the wrong color for the leaves in his picture  – never mind the fact he is “color blind” – it was the “wrong color”, in other words, not green.

Years later when my youngest son was in kindergarten, Pollock came up again. It was art day (see what I’m saying? – just one day given to art….even in kindergarten, even in liberal California!), they were given paints, paper and set free. In a bit, his teacher came by, he smiled up at her and announced that he was painting a Jackson Pollock. She had the wisdom to smile back and say “tell me about it”.

So, readers, part of my goal here is to encourage you to talk about art with your kids. I know this is daunting. My closest friend is not much of an art enthusiast; through her I understand that this art business in no small task. Let’s try together. Let me help start the conversation in your home.