Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who's Doing It Best (2023)

"Art does not solve problems, but makes us aware of their existence," sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has said. Arts education, on the other hand, does solve problems. Years of research show that it's closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.

Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. A 2005report by the Rand Corporation about the visual artsargues that the intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual's life -- according to the report, they "can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing," creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion. And strong arts programming in schools helps close a gap that has left many a child behind: From Mozart for babies to tutus for toddlers to family trips to the museum, the children of affluent, aspiring parents generally get exposed to the arts whether or not public schools provide them. Low-income children, often, do not. "Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences,'' says Eric Cooper, president and founder of theNational Urban Alliance for Effective Education.

It has become a mantra in education that No Child Left Behind, with its pressure to raise test scores, has reduced classroom time devoted to the arts (and science, social studies, and everything else besides reading and math). Evidence supports this contention -- we'll get to the statistics in a minute -- but the reality is more complex. Arts education has been slipping for more than three decades, the result of tight budgets, an ever-growing list of state mandates that have crammed the classroom curriculum, and a public sense that the arts are lovely but not essential.

This erosion chipped away at the constituencies that might have defended the arts in the era of NCLB -- children who had no music and art classes in the 1970s and 1980s may not appreciate their value now. "We have a whole generation of teachers and parents who have not had the advantage of arts in their own education,'' says Sandra Ruppert, director of theArts Education Partnership(AEP), a national coalition of arts, business, education, philanthropic, and government organizations.

(Video) Why Is Art Education Important for Your Child?

The Connection Between Arts Education and Academic Achievement

Yet against this backdrop, a new picture is emerging. Comprehensive, innovative arts initiatives are taking root in a growing number of school districts. Many of these models are based on new findings in brain research and cognitive development, and they embrace a variety of approaches: using the arts as a learning tool (for example, musical notes to teach fractions); incorporating arts into other core classes (writing and performing a play about, say, slavery); creating a school environment rich in arts and culture (Mozart in the hallways every day) and hands-on arts instruction. Although most of these initiatives are in the early stages, some are beginning to rack up impressive results. This trend may send a message to schools focused maniacally, and perhaps counterproductively, on reading and math.

"If they're worried about their test scores and want a way to get them higher, they need to give kids more arts, not less," says Tom Horne, Arizona's state superintendent of public instruction. "There's lots of evidence that kids immersed in the arts do better on their academic tests."

Education policies almost universally recognize the value of arts. Forty-seven states have arts-education mandates, forty-eight have arts-education standards, and forty have arts requirements for high school graduation, according to the 2007-08 AEP state policy database. TheGoals 2000 Educate America Act, passed in 1994 to set the school-reform agenda of the Clinton and Bush administrations, declared art to be part of what all schools should teach. NCLB, enacted in 2001, included art as one of the ten core academic subjects of public education, a designation that qualified arts programs for an assortment of federal grants.

(Video) Why art is important | Katerina Gregos | TEDxGhent

In a 2003 report, "The Complete Curriculum: Ensuring a Place for the Arts and Foreign Languages in American's Schools," a study group from the National Association of State Boards of Education noted that a substantial body of research highlights the benefits of arts in curriculum and called for stronger emphasis on the arts and foreign languages. As chairman of theEducation Commission of the Statesfrom 2004 to 2006, Mike Huckabee, then governor of Arkansas, launched an initiative designed, according to commission literature, to ensure every child has the opportunity to learn about, enjoy, and participate directly in the arts.

Top-down mandates are one thing, of course, and implementation in the classroom is another. Whatever NCLB says about the arts, it measures achievement through math and language arts scores, not drawing proficiency or music skills. It's no surprise, then, that many districts have zeroed in on the tests. A 2006 national survey by theCenter on Education Policy, an independent advocacy organization in Washington, DC, found that in the five years after enactment of NCLB, 44 percent of districts had increased instruction time in elementary school English language arts and math while decreasing time spent on other subjects. A follow-up analysis, released in February 2008, showed that 16 percent of districts had reduced elementary school class time for music and art -- and had done so by an average of 35 percent, or fifty-seven minutes a week.

Some states report even bleaker numbers. In California, for example, participation in music courses dropped 46 percent from 1999-2000 through 2000-04, while total school enrollment grew nearly 6 percent, according to a study by theMusic for All Foundation. The number of music teachers, meanwhile, declined 26.7 percent. In 2001, theCalifornia Board of Educationset standards at each grade level for what students should know and be able to do in music, visual arts, theater, and dance, but a statewide study in 2006, bySRI International, found that 89 percent of K-12 schools failed to offer a standards-based course of study in all four disciplines. Sixty-one percent of schools didn't even have a full-time arts specialist.

Nor does support for the arts by top administrators necessarily translate into instruction for kids. For example, a 2005 report in Illinois found almost no opposition to arts education among principals and district superintendents, yet there were large disparities in school offerings around the state.

(Video) Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson

Reviving Arts Education

In many districts, the arts have suffered so long that it will take years, and massive investment, to turn things around. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has made arts education a priority in his school reform plans, and the city has launched sweeping initiatives to connect more students with the city's vast cultural resources. Nearly every school now offers at least some arts instruction and cultural programming, yet in 2007-08, only 45 percent of elementary schools and 33 percent of middle schools provided education in all four required art forms, according to an analysis by theNew York City Department of Education, and only 34 percent of high schools offered students the opportunity to exceed the minimum graduation requirement.

Yet some districts have made great strides toward not only revitalizing the arts but also using them to reinvent schools. The work takes leadership, innovation, broad partnerships, and a dogged insistence that the arts are central to what we want students to learn.

In Dallas, for example, a coalition of arts advocates, philanthropists, educators, and business leaders have worked for years to get arts into all schools, and to get students out into the city's thriving arts community. Today, for the first time in thirty years, every elementary student in theDallas Independent School Districtreceives forty-five minutes a week of art and music instruction. In a February 2007 op-ed piece in theDallas Morning News, Gigi Antoni, president and CEO ofBig Thought, the nonprofit partnership working with the district, theWallace Foundation, and more than sixty local arts and cultural institutions, explained the rationale behind what was then called theDallas Arts Learning Initiative: "DALI was created on one unabashedly idealistic, yet meticulously researched, premise -- that students flourish when creativity drives learning."

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The Minneapolis and Chicago communities, too, are forging partnerships with their vibrant arts and cultural resources to infuse the schools with rich comprehensive, sustainable programs -- not add-ons that come and go with this year's budget or administrator.

In Arizona, Tom Horne, the state superintendant of public instruction, made it his goal to provide high-quality, comprehensive arts education to all K-12 students. Horne, a classically trained pianist and founder of the Phoenix Baroque Ensemble, hasn't yet achieved his objective, but he has made progress: He pushed through higher standards for arts education, appointed an arts specialist in the state Department of Education, and steered $4 million in federal funds under NCLB to support arts integration in schools throughout the state. Some have restored art and music after a decade without them.

"When you think about the purposes of education, there are three," Horne says. "We're preparing kids for jobs. We're preparing them to be citizens. And we're teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two."


Fran Smithis a contributing editor forEdutopia.


Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who's Doing It Best? ›

Why is art education so important? It reflects our history, traditions, culture, and ourselves. It allows us to dive deep into different topics, emotions and provides the opportunity to reflect on who we are and what we believe in.

Why is art education important? ›

Why is art education so important? It reflects our history, traditions, culture, and ourselves. It allows us to dive deep into different topics, emotions and provides the opportunity to reflect on who we are and what we believe in.

What are 4 reasons art education is valuable? ›

Art instruction helps children with the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision-making, risk-taking, and inventiveness. Visual arts teach learners about color, layout, perspective, and balance: all techniques that are necessary in presentations (visual, digital) of academic work.

Why is art education important what does it do for us as people what does it do for our society? ›

It can be a gateway to joy, empathy, and empowerment. Arts education teaches students to explore the world and their place in it courageously. Through the arts, students can develop the imagination to envision a better future—and the creativity to put that vision into action. It's the same with images.

How might art education be a benefit to society? ›

Arts education also imparts valuable skills that will serve students in their lives and careers: observation, problem-solving, innovation, and critical thinking. 46 Participating in the arts can also improve communication skills, generate self-esteem, teach collaboration, and increase confidence.

Why is arts important? ›

In addition to providing commentary about the larger culture, art makes life more manageable, tolerable and enjoyable. One may not think about more utilitarian items and places as “art,” but they do contribute to one's aesthetic experience.

Why is art important in life? ›

Art helps you process your emotions and understand your surroundings. It allows you to see life from a different perspective and it makes you feel alive. Art has always been an important part of human society since the beginning of time. Art has been used as a tool for cultural exchange, education, and expression.

What is the top 10 reasons why study art appreciation? ›

10 Big Reasons Why Art is Important
  • It's natural human behavior. ...
  • It's a language. ...
  • Art tells a story. ...
  • Therapeutic. ...
  • Evoke emotions from people. ...
  • Increases creativity. ...
  • It makes people happy when they create. ...
  • Vital to human development.

What are the 4 C's of art education? ›

NAEA recognizes that the 4C's – Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity - are fundamental to visual arts education. NAEA believes that it is important that all learners leave school prepared with the skills and knowledge to address the challenges that await them.

What are the four 4 main purposes of the arts? ›

It can be used to communicate ideas and thoughts; it can be used as a tool for self-expression, used as a form of therapy, or even as a means to find beauty in life. Art also captures a moment in time, historical events, social ideas and concepts, and political or social commentary.

How does art education help problem solve? ›

It allows children to imagine possible solutions and test them out on their peers. This is a valuable exercise that will help develop important problem solving skills necessary for success in any career.

Why is it important for us to study arts and art appreciation? ›

Art Appreciation equips you with the vocabulary to understand and discuss the visual arts, while introducing you to various mediums. Art helps create understanding of the world around us. It is an essential part of cultures across the globe because it allows us to be open to new ideas and experiences.

Do you think art classes are necessary? ›

2.Do you think art classes are necessary? I would have to say yes. Studies have shown that early exposure to the arts has positive effects on cognitive development and creativity in youngsters.

How does art education help to think differently? ›

It takes time to find, examine, and consider these many layers. It's this very process of observation and study that teaches students of the arts to more intensely observe and analyze the world. And it gives them the skills that build the foundation of critical thinking.

How can art help us create a better society? ›

What is the impact of art on society? Art acts as a collective memory of society. Through expressive outlets such as paintings, sculptures, music, literature and other art forms, artists preserve life as we know it even better than historical fact-based records. Art expresses how it felt to exist in a particular time.

What are some benefits of art in the society? ›

Art gives us the ability to express ourselves. Through that expression, we communicate by drawing on our own unique emotions, thoughts and experiences. When you see and study another's art, you're seeing the world through their eyes. When you create, you're letting the world see through yours.

What are 3 benefits of doing art? ›

Relieving stress, training your brain and providing opportunities to connect and socialise with others are some of the many benefits of art that you may not know. There are many studies shown that creating art can benefit your mental health and improve brain elasticity.

What is the value of art? ›

Artistic value is just a term we use to talk about something's goodness or badness as art, and it is something comprised of (a number of) different determinant kinds of value, such as aesthetic, moral, cognitive, and political value. In this way, artistic value is attributive goodness.

What is art appreciation in your own words? ›

Art appreciation is the study and understanding of the visual arts, including painting, sculpture, architecture, and other forms of expression. It involves learning about the elements and principles of art, as well as the historical and cultural context in which works of art were created.

How arts inspire your life? ›

Art has a way of reaching deep inside our souls and connect what is inside us, our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, with outer realities and with our own experiences. Being such a deep experience on a personal level, art can help us understand who we are and enhance life through self-expression.

What is a good quote for art? ›

Art Quotes & Famous Artists Quotes
  • “Creativity takes courage.”
  • “If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”
  • “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way—things I had no words for.”
  • “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”

Why is art important quotes? ›

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton. “Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do.” – Edgar Degas. “I think of art as the highest level of creativity. To me, it is one of the greatest sources of enjoyment.” – David Rockefeller.

What are five reasons why we study art? ›

Five reasons to study Art & Design
  • Diverse range of study topics. From history to sculpture, theatre to fashion, there's a wide variety of different areas you can study during an Art & Design course. ...
  • Culture at your fingertips. ...
  • Travel abroad. ...
  • Transferable skills. ...
  • Job opportunities.

Why is art so appreciated? ›

It is meant to stimulate thought because it allows viewers to draw their own emotions and pull from their personal experiences when viewed. It is very powerful in this way and it naturally develops critical and innovative thinking skills.

Why is creative art important? ›

Creativity enables you to connect with the beauty around you. Engaging in art, as well as physical activity elevates your mood. Art stimulates your brain and improves cognitive ability. Sharing the making of art, be it sewing, painting, drawing, playing music, or growing beautiful flowers breaks down barriers.

What are the 4.2 elements of arts? ›

ELEMENTS OF ART: The visual components of color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value.

What are the four A's of design? ›

A new way of thinking about these formal work scales and needs is provided by sharing a simple context for thinking about them — the four “A's”. These A's include Archive, Active, Array and Await. A working definition of each is shared along with some examples.

What are the four area of fine art? ›

Historically, the five main fine arts were painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and poetry, with performing arts including theatre and dance.

What are the six aims of arts? ›

Even though there are a great many aims art can have, six that are particularly significant and influential are religious and ceremonial, social commentary, storytelling, self-expression, beauty and emotion.

What are the 4 theories of art? ›

Theories of Art
  1. Imitationalism: The idea that art should imitate what the viewer sees in the real world. ...
  2. Emotionalism: The idea that art should communicate emotion. ...
  3. Formalism: The idea that art should emphasize principles and elements of art such as texture, color, or line.

What are the six purposes of art? ›

The six functions are:
  • Art for Delight.
  • Art as Commentary.
  • Art in Worship and Ritual.
  • Art for Commemoration.
  • Art for Persuasion.
  • Art as Self-Expression.
Oct 10, 2014

How does art education affect the brain? ›

Art accesses many of the advanced processes of the human brain, such as intuitive analysis, expressivity, and embodied cognition. Artists are often better observers and have better memory, and this may be due to how art affects the brain's plasticity.

How does art education help students express themselves? ›

Art provides a way for children to express themselves without using words. It can be a release for feelings that are too intense or difficult to put into words. And it can be a way to process trauma or stress. Art also helps children learn about themselves and the world around them.

How does art increase creative thinking? ›

The power in art isn't about what's there, but about how it makes you think and feel. Observing art improves creativity because it broadens your perspective by introducing these new ways to look at the world. It invites inspiration by helping you think things you wouldn't have thought before.

What are the two major benefits of studying art? ›

Learning through and about the arts enriches the experience of studying while at school as well as preparing students for life after school. Arts subjects encourage self-expression and creativity and can build confidence as well as a sense of individual identity.

How do you reflect yourself about arts in life? ›

By shaking things up in creative and artistic ways, it paves the way for enlightenment and personal development.
  1. Doodle. ...
  2. Visit A Museum Or Gallery. ...
  3. Take Photos. ...
  4. Take An Art Class. ...
  5. Get In Touch With Your Inner Child.

What does art appreciation teach you about life? ›

Art gives us meaning and helps us understand our world. Scientific studies have proven that art appreciation improves our quality of life and makes us feel good. When we create art, we elevate our mood, we improve our ability to problem solve, and open our minds to new ideas.

Why do people like art classes? ›

Art classes allow you to meet and create with others also interested in art and learning the ability to create. Art classes also allow us to bring the inner child out. Remember when you were a kid and mom would let you draw with crayons, color or best yet finger-paint, well you can do this in an art class.

Why is art a good class? ›

Imaginative activities for young learners can lead to better skills in social interactions and emotional regulation. Lessons in the arts introduce K-12 students to problem-solving techniques, which help them to see the world in new ways, and provide access to creative ways of knowing.

Can you be good at art without going to art school? ›

Can You Be an Artist, Without Going to Art School? Absolutely! In fact, believe it or not, there are some good reasons not to go to art school, including the fact that it can actually hinder your development, rather than help.

Does doing art make you more creative? ›

Creating art relieves stress, encourages creative thinking, increases brain plasticity, and imparts other mental health benefits.

How does art transformed you as a student? ›

The arts encourage an improved understanding of self and a greater sense of confidence among students. Art also introduces students to varied avenues of self-expression and allows them to use the more creative side of their brain.

How can art help change the world? ›

Art has the power to change the way we see the world, awakening us to new perspectives, ideas, and values. It can take us back in time to reflect on our past or push us further into our future. Art can bring awareness to social issues and foster a sense of acceptance — bringing people together regardless of background.

How does art impact the world? ›

Art influences society by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences across space and time. Research has shown art affects the fundamental sense of self. Painting, sculpture, music, literature and the other arts are often considered to be the repository of a society's collective memory.

How does art connect people? ›

Culture generates social capital and strengthens a community's character. Art brings people together physically — at galleries, museums, performance spaces — and culturally, through its capacity to tell a community's shared story, to inspire reflection, and form connections that transcend differences.

Why is art important in community development? ›

Community Development

Often when a community struggles with a social concern, arts projects can foster cooperative dialogue and bring about solutions and change. The arts drive an increased tax base, stronger social networks and community cohesion, reduced health risks, higher empathy, and more community pride.

How will you promote art in your community in what way? ›

Some ideas include providing artwork for charity auctions, participating in community art projects like murals or volunteering to teach at community centres. Community events provide great marketing opportunities, therefore taking part also gives you the chance of your picture or name in the local press.

What are the benefits of art classes? ›

Art enhances fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, lateral thinking, complex analysis and critical thinking skills. And art education increases creativity and open-mindedness. Creativity is cited by business leaders as the top leadership competency for the future.

What skills do you gain from art? ›

Skills developed through participation in the arts are increasingly important in the workplace and therefore, key to a successful career.
  • FOCUS. ...

How does art help students mental health? ›

The arts' valuable role in mental health is being recognised

It can help to boost confidence and make us feel more engaged and resilient. Besides these benefits, art engagement also alleviates anxiety, depression and stress.

Why is art education important in schools quotes? ›

The arts significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds students will go on to graduate from college. It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.

What are the 5 benefits of art? ›

Here are five ways art benefits students of all ages.
  • #1 Builds Fine Motor Skills and Neural Connections.
  • #2 Enhances Creative Abilities and Encourages Imagination.
  • #3 Improves Communication.
  • #4 Boosts Self-Esteem.
  • #5 Builds Connection and Community.
  • Long Island Art Lessons for Children.

What does art class teach you? ›

Art Class Helps Children Grow

When children get a chance to express their creativity and dive into art, they develop confidence, increase their empathy and discover how to look at the world from different perspectives. All those skills help prepare students to take on the world with passion and creativity.

What are the basic art knowledge? ›

They are color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value. The ten common principles of art are balance, emphasis, harmony, movement, pattern, proportion, repetition, rhythm, unity, and variety. Many of these concepts are not only related to one another but also overlap to create an artistic vision.

What are the benefits of artistic skills? ›

Art encourages creativity and imaginative thinking, two skills that are increasingly linked with long-term professional success. Art forces children to engage in out of the box thinking and can help them hone their creative problem-solving skills.

How does art develop creativity? ›

Artists develop creativity from experiences. The more experiences you have, both as an artist and as a human, the more ideas will flow towards your artwork. In order to generate new ideas, you also need to spend time investigating the experiences you do have.

How can art improve your quality of life? ›

Art gives us meaning and helps us understand our world. Scientific studies have proven that art appreciation improves our quality of life and makes us feel good. When we create art, we elevate our mood, we improve our ability to problem solve, and open our minds to new ideas.

How does art boost confidence? ›

Students in performing arts learn concentration and focus while sharpening memorization skills. This can lead to higher grades and better overall academic achievement. The performing arts allow students to showcase their talents which leads to increased confidence in themselves.

What is a famous quote about the arts in education? ›

“An elementary school that treats the arts as the province of a few gifted children, or views them only as recreation and entertainment, is a school that needs an infusion of soul. That arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic.”


1. Why Daily Drawing Practice is Crucial For Artists
(Robbie Allen Artist)
2. What makes a good teacher great? | Azul Terronez | TEDxSantoDomingo
(TEDx Talks)
(Cima Gallery)
4. "Why Art is Crucial for Change" Peter Joseph | Abby Martin & Peter Joseph
5. Dr. Brian Primack: 'Empowerment and education' crucial for media literacy in youth
(Washington Post Live)
6. Creative Conversations: The Fundamental Role of the Arts in Education During COVID
(American Stage)


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