On Art and Art Education
Saying that art is about creativ- ity and self-expression is like saying that English is about creativity and self-expression.
It is true, but not entirely.
Language is a life skill. An English teacher doesn’t expect all of her
students to become Shakespeare. She
does expect them to become literate
teaches them to
read and write,
language, and to
different the world would be if English
teachers had to contend with the preconception that a lack of talent means
there is no value in the subject.
create a brand. It is no accident that
companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Disney are recognized
around the world.
Every school, every building, was created by an architect’s pencil. Clothing, cars, furniture, bridges, and even
the space shuttle began their existence
as drawings on pieces of paper.
Art as Language
Art is a universal language. Human
history is recorded in pottery, hiero-
ture. Our future
is planned with
plans, and ani-
matics. Art delivers us safely to our
destinations every day. We all know
what to do in the event of a water
landing. We know where the near-
est exits are in theaters and hotels.
Roads are designed to tell us when and
where to turn and where it is safe to
cross the street. We all know that the
octagon at the end of the street means
stop. But did you ever wonder why
that sign is red? We live and die by
these ideas—ideas that are communicated very effectively by artists.
Almost everyone understands art,
but very few people have learned to
speak it. A careful look at the world
makes an artist’s value clear. The
books, magazines, and websites that
we read were all designed by artists.
A complete art education
Art’s Life Skill
teaches students to see clearly,
to think creatively, and to give
form to the future.
Art is about making an idea into a
reality. There isn’t a single crafted or
manufactured object that didn’t pass
through an artist’s hands. That is art’s
life skill. It applies to everything from
the telling of a story, to the functioning of a home, to the building of a
Consider the fact that every big
business employs a fleet of artists to
design logos, build websites, visualize
and advertise products, communicate
their messages, earn investors, and
Art as an Essential Life Skill
Not so long ago, art was taught as a
fundamental life skill; as a practical tool for future engineers; as an
observational skill vital for scientists.
The nature and the quality of art
education may have changed over the
decades, but it is important to recognize that visual art shares something
with every other language: It can be
a fun, expressive medium, but it also
has a grammar and a vital set of skills
that can be taught to any student.
If art education is ever going to
earn its permanent place in our
schools, the full scope of the subject
must be recognized. A complete art
education teaches students to see
clearly, to think creatively, and to give
form to the future. And, yes, it is creative, self-expressive, and fun.
Rama Hughes is an art teacher and illustrator who lives in Glendale, California.