Learning art forms will enrich individuals of any age, but young people in particular can reap invaluable benefits from art education because they are in the most developmental period of their lives.
Art is not absorption learning like other subjects taught in school, nor is it interactive like computer games, texting, and social media.
It is a creative activity that encourages the growth of a whole person as an integrated individual: It educates the senses, the mind, and the emotions.
There are 10 principles that demonstrate how art education functions as an unparalleled aid in developing both the mind and the heart of young individuals, improving not only their youthful lives but also carrying over into a more responsible, sensitive, and mature adulthood.
By studying and making art, students learn through the challenging and pleasurable aesthetic acts of creation to appreciate the beauties and realities of the natural world and the human condition. They also learn to understand and enjoy all of the different art forms that define a cultivated society.
Even more importantly, students of art will learn to exercise discipline by practicing and executing technical skills that will sharpen their powers of objective observation and detailed mental focus.
They will also learn to channel their emotions — dreams, ambitions, values, ideas, fears, and fantasies — into concrete entities that can be analyzed for beauty and validity because they are “out there” to be seen and heard in physical form.
This unique experience allows young, searching minds to explore their internal lives within the boundaries of rationally structured external forms, thereby letting them productively (and harmlessly) experiment with and express whatever they wish in a safe aesthetic environment.
- Drawing — to appreciate the three-dimensional world by learning to render it in two dimensions.
- Painting — to appreciate the beauty and colors and shapes of the world by using a brush and applying paint to create a world on canvas.
- Sculpture — to appreciate form and mass and the tangible pleasure of working with clay to create individual entities or “beings.”
- Short story — to stimulate the imagination by creating an original tale with a beginning, middle, and an end.
- Poetry — to stimulate an appreciation of the rhythm and rhyme of words; to distill thoughts into a structure of written “music.”
- Drama — to combine the written word with action, speaking, and physical-emotive presentation.
- Instrument — to experiment with different musical instruments, see how they work, hear their different sounds, and select one to play.
- Sight reading notation — to learn to play a chosen instrument and learn the discipline and joy of music resulting from one’s own efforts and knowledge.
- Appreciation — to learn to “hear” recordings and performances and experience the pleasure of different combinations of man-made musical sounds.
Activation of the Moral Imagination:
- Through imagination, children learn to integrate rational, structured, and disciplined self-selected choices that prepare the mind for real life decisions while understanding and appreciating how all of the arts can express the best and most beautiful human thoughts, values, and emotions.
All of this creative activity will help young individuals enjoy vibrant mental-emotional lives, become familiar with inner psychological introspection and outer physical observation, and explore rational alternatives in order to make better choices in every area of their lives for the rest of their lives.
Learning a structured art form promotes both a curiosity and confidence that can be transferred to real-life situations.
Especially in a world teeming with technological distractions that stunt rather than encourage whole-self development, it is ever more critical for young people to experience personal efficacy via the self-generated, hands-on activities of creating art.
To learn art is to learn life because every individual’s lifetime has a “theme,” self-scripted by each individual depending on how they choose to fill the hours of their days.
Every good work of art does the same: first, it is an observation or idea in the mind of an artist, an imaginative summation of outer natural or man-made images or inner thoughts wished to be expressed.
Then it goes through the purposeful process of transformation from consciously selected aesthetic choices culminating together into a physical object (or in the case of the literary arts and music, a finite time experience) that can be perceived through the senses and communicated to others. . . that can be understood.
Finally, it takes on a life of its own to be considered and enjoyed as an individual entity — an end in itself — just like every human being.
Because humans have free will, they can choose their values by a process of reasoned selection, which is why character development and the development of art are so similar.
They are both self-created.
Alexandra York is an author and founding president of the American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART) a New-York-City-based nonprofit educational arts and culture foundation. She has written for many publications, including "Reader’s Digest" and The New York Times. Her latest book is "The Innocent." For more on Alexandra York, Go Here Now.
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