Our Thriving Arts Culture
Building a thriving arts culture? You bet! Recently, I had dinner with a group of artists, arts advocates and arts educators. One of the attendees at the dinner suggested all artists need to become teaching artists. The reasoning? In order to develop artists and an educated audience, they must ensure there will be audiences for art in the future.
Of course, I am all for developing artists, and growing educated audiences for all art forms. However, I don’t know that every artist is meant to be a teacher. When it comes to creating a new generation of artists as with so many things, I believe it takes a village. I think we can boil it down to three E’s: exposure, education, and engagement.
Our students need wide exposure. Art is such a subjective thing. It’s hard to know what is going to inspire each individual. So, the more exposure to a vast variety of art serves to inspire. Also, it helps to educate and engage our students. This requires teachers, administrators and artists alike to bring artists to the school, and to bring students to the art.
To make the most of the opportunities where students are exposed to art, they need to be educated about that art as well. The art should be put in a context. There should be a specific purpose for the art exposure. In order to access the experience, students need to be prepared for the art experience. Then, they need an opportunity to process the experience. Artists, arts organizations and teachers can work together to make that happen as effectively as possible. This way, students don’t experience art in a vacuum. In addition to educating the students around specific art experiences, students need to have regular standards-based art education from qualified art teachers. If the art instruction is standards-based, it will be focused. Additionally, it will help the students build the necessary skills they need to apply art into other areas.
Engagement means emotional involvement or commitment. Crucial to education, is engagement. Education is not meaningful if it is not engaging. Students need to be truly engaged in the art-making process. Nothing prepares you to appreciate art like trying to make it yourself. If students are making art, and if they are emotionally involved in that process – they will be supporters of art for life. They will become art advocates. Art will enrich their lives. It will be accessible to them and a source of empowerment for them.
We in the fields of art and education need to work together – artists, arts organizations, and schools. If we define common goals, we can help our students have access to art. We help them become art-makers, art advocates and experience the joy coming from both experiencing and making art. Not every artist needs to be a teaching artist. If artists and art organizations work together with schools, we can have a new generation of artists who believe in what they can do. A generation that appreciates the art others make, and are equipped to advocate for the arts. To build a thriving arts culture, it takes a village.