“Why is art important to education?”
Henri Matisse said, “An artist is an explorer.” Everything that matters in the world was discovered by an explorer of some sort. By teaching children to be observers or creators of art, we are teaching them to explore and improve upon our world. Creating and observing art actually changes the human brain on a cellular level—and it continues to change the brain from birth to old age. Art accelerates development in children and slows the brain’s deterioration in the elderly.
I was once an elementary school teacher at a Title 1 school. Most of my students had never left the city where they lived, and some had never gone very far from their neighborhood. Through the arts (through visual arts and music), I could take my students anywhere. When we learned about George Washington crossing the Delaware River, I showed them the famous painting by Emanuel Leutze and they were able to SEE Washington leading his troops (and horses) across the icy river. The painting made history come alive in a way that my words alone could never do. We looked at paintings of Ancient Greece, Egypt and Mali, connections to worlds unseen by my little students were made through art.
Creating art allows students to communicate feelings that they might not know how to put into words. Learning to observe and appreciate art allows us to see life through someone else’s eyes.
Learning to be creative and appreciate creativity is one of, if not THE, most important lessons of childhood. Creativity must be encouraged and appreciated for the human race to thrive, and we need art for that.
Through my job as Peninsula Fine Arts Center’s Education Director, I get to witness this creativity and wonder daily! Helping to create new classes and programs for our tiniest students in our Wednesday morning Art Start preschool programs, all the way up to the retirees in our docent training sessions for each exhibition. Watching how people of all ages, from all walks of life engage and experience art is so inspiring.
So for me, art is EVERYTHING.