Teaching Art History Students

Art education is more than learning how to make aesthetically pleasing things. It is also a wonderful means of expression for many people and is a reflection of the times. A teacher of fine art should act as a facilitator for the creative outputs of students. The teacher can educate the students on the basic principles and elements of art and the history of art, but it is up to the student to be able to identify their own point of view and implement and convey those views in their own artwork.

Art, in essence, can’t be taught; a person can learn principles, guidelines, and tricks, but only the individual can teach themself how to create art. Everyone can eventually learn how to draw or paint realistically, since realism in art follows set rules, and it is straightforward to copy from a photograph, image, or scene. However, students should learn how think dynamically and provide them with objective and constructive criticism. It is crucial for an art teacher to be objective assessmg and critiquing students’ artworks. Too many times in my own education I have had art instructors critique my work under the influence of their personal tastes and biases.

In high school, two different teachers had offered advice to complete an art piece using unnecessarily complex techniques they use with their personal art. While experimentation in art is vital in order to develop as an artist, offering a suggestion to improve a half-completed piece with a different, sometimes clashing technique is not going to benefit most students. It tends to confuse them since it would require a sudden change in work flow to learn a new technique and spend precious time trying to implement it into a piece they had already been working on. As an art teacher, I will offer suggestions within students’ potential as well as time and medium availability to improve their works so they do not feel burdened or overwhelmed. An art teacher needs to be able to dissociate from their own level of work in order to help those who need advice or are less experienced. The art teacher must be encouraging, not discouraging.

Motivating my decision to become an art teacher is my desire to encourage students. I want young people to have a positive outlook on art and their ability to create it. In the past, I have found some of my teachers’ methods discouraging. In middle school and high school I was more advanced in art technically and creatively than most of my peers, but I was still required to create the same unchallenging work as them. I found it mundane, and I sometimes disliked the class due to the constraints and simplicity of the assignments. I was relieved whenever I was allowed to interpret the assignment differently by putting my own spin and point of view into the project. When I teach, I want to offer plenty of creative freedom to my students because, as a practicing artist, I understand the frustrations that arise from too many restrictions. I want students to feel open to express themselves within their art, regardless of skill level, and not feel like they need to stay bound within a checklist.

Probably the most glaring problem facing art education is the under-valuing of the arts in schools, communities, and society. This attitude is shared and expressed by many young students. In my introductory art class in high school, about half of the students admitted they had chosen the class to fulfill their fine art credit requirement under the impression it would be an ‘easy A.’ This particular attitude exemplifies how the public does not perceive the fine arts seriously due to a social stigma that the arts are considered a luxury or a pastime or not necessary for school curriculum. This was true in the history of fine art, when only the wealthy or well­connected could become painters or sculptors, but since the last century the field has changed.

Artists from all social classes have risen into the limelight. The very definition of art has broadened beyond traditional painting, drawing, and sculpting to include any expressive visual and auditory medium, including street, folk, and digital art. A person no longer needs to be well­off, financially or connectedly, to be recognized as an artist. Although reforms like the No Child Left Behind Act recognize the arts as part of the core curriculum, many people don’t hold the same sentiment.

This is one reason why funding for the arts has usually been the first to be cut during budget crises. Several studies have shown that knowledge of the arts can increase students’ knowledge and tests scores. According to 2005 SAT score results, students who had taken less than half a year of art education scored an average of 485 on the verbal portion and 502 on mathematics. Students who had taken one year of an arts course scored an average of 501 on the verbal portion and 515 on mathematics, and those who had taken four years scored averages of 543 and 541. The arts are beneficial to increasing understanding and test scores of core academic subjects by strengthening students’ strategic thinking and attention to detail.

I want to expand students’ perspective on art as well as inspire them to express themselves. Art education can have a big impact on children during their middle and high school years. As a teacher, I want to educate students in art history, teach them the basics of art, and, most importantly, encourage students to express themselves in their art by showing their own point of view of themselves and the world. I want others to understand the complexity and the beauty behind creating art.

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