Let’s talk about the pile of elephant dung in the middle of the room; namely, that adults in my community of Fresno and Clovis as well as elsewhere who were educated in our public schools consider a print or statue from Target or Wal-Mart to be worth as much as an original painting or sculpture from a local artist. Why is this? Well, I believe it is because they don’t think of art or paintings as a cultural medium, but as mere decorator objects. I think this belief was created because they were not taught to appreciate art as children, either from parents (who probably weren’t taught it either) or exposed to the idea of art and music as cultural mediums enriching society in the local schools. Why don’t we teach the appreciation of arts and music to our young people here in our public schools? The dirty little secret is Money.
Despite numerous studies showing that students who are consistently exposed to and taught to appreciate art and music do better scholastically in Math and Science, Art and Music subjects always get the short straw when it comes to allocating school funds. Art and Music are “soft” subjects and consequently hard to measure on tests. We do need both math and science in order to compete in a technological world. however, it is well established that in spite of spending more money per student than any other state, California students continue to fall behind not only national, but world, averages and I believe that is due to poor emphasis on the subjects of art and music.
Now, of course if asked, county and State Schools administrations will agree, “There ought to be an art or a music class taught”. Nevertheless, this isn’t really happening and the classes that are taught don’t really address the problem. A single class that lets students play around with band instruments won’t teach our children to appreciate different types of music and its contributions to our culture. Neither will a class allowing students to draw pictures, although both of the options are a good start in the right direction. Art and Music must be integrated into all our subjects in order for our children to learn how valuable they really are. For instance, you can’t study Greek and Roman historical contributions without being exposed to their art and music as well. American history should include more than a paragraph mentioning Francis Scott Key’s National Anthem! A study of the American Revolution should include the contributions made by American artists in getting the message out to colonists. Many musical notes are based on mathematical formulas, but is this taught in math? Architectural structures, roads and bridges are part art, part geometry is this taught in geometry? I could go on and on, but I hope you get the point.
I believe that until our schools are committed to giving our young people a well-rounded appreciation of art and music as well as math, science and sports, our graduating students are going to continue to fall further and further behind the national standard. Creativity teaches independent thinking and without independent thinkers, we have no future leaders, only little robots who can recite by rote the party line without once understanding or considering the consequences. What do you think?
It seems to me that the chief issue here is a generally held opinion that prominent artists are only found in certain regions. This is simply not true; while a Thomas Kincade or a Bev Doolittle may not live in your community, it would be wise to check out exactly who does. For instance, my area of Fresno, Clovis and the surrounding cities in the Central Valley are home to national and internationally known artists. We also have many very talented local artists. The big secret is no one knows it. So how do we as artists raise the social awareness of art in our communities?
The best way to raise art awareness was to put art out in places where John and Mary Public can take their children to see it. In Fresno, do have an art event three times a month called Art Hop, where the public is encouraged to tour homegrown galleries, restaurants and businesses that hang art by local artists. Taking the bus tour once a month would be a wonderful opportunity to raise art awareness if we could persuade our local parents and schools to participate. Unfortunately, the sad fact is that except for a small percentage of the population John and Mary Pubic are too busy working non-stop or taking their children to sports activities and have very little time to take in local galleries. I believe this needs to be joint efforts by artists, parents and schools to help our young people do better scholastically by immersing them in Art and culture. I encourage you to take up the challenge in your community.
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