The Demise of Art
Today, I’m taking a break from talking about books and writing to post instead about an issue that I feel very strongly about.
I am currently interning at an art museum where I help out with children’s art camps. These kids, aged 6-12, do some of the most amazing artwork. The teachers who instruct the class are wonderfully talented and come up with fantastic art projects that really channel the children’s creativity. I have interviewed the instructors and plan to use their quotes in the “yearbook” that I am designing for the camp.
One of the teachers spoke about the neglect of art in the public school system, and how some of the fifth graders she teaches at a public school freeze up in the art class because they can’t do anything without precise instructions. They can’t think creatively. Kids who constantly play video games and sit on the computer, she claims, find fine motor movements difficult.
The most common answer I received when I asked instructors why it was important for kids to do art was “self-expression.” Art allows children to express themselves without the need to use words or language of any kind. It allows kids a chance to learn about themselves, their emotions, and their abilities. It allows them to be free.
I find it ironic that in a country that claims to prize creativity and seek it in those looking for the top jobs–as I am told constantly in college–we try so staunchly to force it out of kids. Art programs are often the first to face cuts when school budgets decrease. Students who are passionate about the arts are often depicted as social outcasts or “strange.” Students who major in the visual, dramatic, or performing arts (or English, for that matter) in universities are often chided as “taking the easy way out” or taking nonsense majors that have no clear career path.
Grooming children to go into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors won’t make any difference in our society if they can’t think out of the box, and that’s what art encourages. As one of the art camp instructors stated, STEM should be STEAM, because art is as critical to innovation and change in society as it is to personal growth and development. Creativity needs to be fostered and nurtured from childhood; it can’t simply be expected to appear in adults without any precursor. Art allows kids to use their imagination, work cooperatively, learn to see things differently, and create something out of nothing.
So here’s to the arts, creativity, and self-expression in children.