Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Art Education...my two cents

While the group that presented last Friday did a great job of expressing why arts education, specifically music, is so fundamental for young minds, I thought I would share my two cents on why I believe art education is imperative and important. As everyone should know, I am an advocate for art and all things related, and was shocked when I heard how the Des Moines Public Schools would be making budget cuts that would largely effect arts education. Thinking back, I cannot imagine growing up and going to school without having art class. While my interest in art developed before entering school, it was definitely through art classes and my art teachers that my desire to learn more and do more regarding the visual arts increased. My art teacher in high school was my mentor; she encouraged me to follow my interest in art into a career. While some of you may not have had this experience, I want to challenge you to think back to your elementary days. Was it music class, P.E., or art class that was the highlight of your day/week? Given the opportunity, children have a desire for a release from the structure of in-class work. I loved and longed for art class, even throughout high school. It was the one chance throughout the day where I got to put aside my schoolwork and just focus on my creative innate spirit. I mean who didn't enjoy taking time out of their day to paint or draw or mold clay?

The one thing about art is that it is available to everyone. You don't need a lot of supplies to create a work of art. A pen and piece of paper will suffice. A box of crayons, markers, watercolors, whatever...all I'm saying is it doesn't take much. But the brain developments one achieves through the education of art are lasting. Art teachers not only teach about the color wheel, techniques, and design but how to problem-solve, think critically and outside the box, and communicate thoughts and ideas in a variety of ways. As the group last Friday pointed out, early exposure to the arts promotes activity in the brain. Art education, in particular, develops cognitive and creative skills which further develops the imagination. Art encourages inventiveness causing students to engage in a process that aids in the development of self-confidence, self-discipline, persistence, and self-motivation to continually make revisions to a piece in order to create a high quality work of art that the student can be proud of.

By participating in art activities with one another, children gain the tools necessary for understanding human experience and adapting to and respecting each others' way of working and thinking. Students develop crucial skills in cooperative decision-making, leadership, clear communication, and complex problem solving. The arts teach students to be more tolerant and open through multicultural and historical perspectives and through their involvement in the creative process.

I don't know about you, but these traits I described above sound an awful lot like what future employers are looking for. In fact some businesses host workshops to develop these skills!

Having art education in schools not only teaches and develops the above skills, but provides a haven where students can be who they are. Students learn to showcase and embrace their individuality. Art allows students to express things about themselves and the way they feel about the world around them, in ways words could never begin to. Without having a classroom, teacher, and time set outside for this, a student may never be exposed to this way of thinking, may never be able to fully appreciate the beauty of the world and the visual arts, and may never be fundamentally prepared for a future career.

For more info on this, visit the National Art Education Association at www. arteducators.org


Monday, April 5, 2010

In the Prescence of History

On Thursday, March 25th, my internship offered me an amazing opportunity. I had tickets to go see the President of the United States speak on my college campus. I drove out with some other interns at the Statehouse the night before, spent the evening laughing and talking. The car was filled with excitement, we were about to witness a piece of history. President Obama had just signed the health care reform bill into law, and had chosen Iowa City as his first destination to celebrate. I would be able to tell people that I had been there after he passed this piece of legislation that would have a monumental effect on not only his presidency, but the country as well.

As we walked up to the Fieldhouse to wait in line, we passed a decent-sized group of protestors, standing outside the building waving signs with phrases like "Obamacare" and "Obama's Holocaust" next to pictures of death and other unpleasent things. I stared at them for quite awhile, unable to tear my eyes away from their anger, heavily displayed on their faces and in their movement. I tried not to put too much thought into what their posters said, after all, I know that is not at all what this piece of legislation will do. I found, however, that I had a hard time throwing their prescence out of my mind.

There I was, excited and enthusiastic, about being able to see my President, whom I respect and admire, speak on a bill that I knew certainly had to do some good. But in the meanwhile, there were people outside who believed in the opposite with exactly the same enthusiasm. It made me think about how all controversial government programs, like Medicaid, had to begin in the same way. With supporters and protestors taking sides and advocating for them by speaking outside buildings, creating signs, and expressing their beliefs in any way they can. And it was in this moment that I really began to hold great respect for our country and its founding principles. We've made it possible, not only for people to feel free to express themselves, but also for law to be an ever-evolving process. One that can be easily changed and altered to ensure success over time. No bill that ever passes is perfect, and there will always be some sort of problem with any legislation for one person or another. But the great thing is, that no matter what, it is easy for us, as a population to influence it as much as we can to ensure that it succeeds for many people in the long run.