5 Reasons Why Art Education is Failing in Our Schools and Universities.
Eric Hines and Larry Gluck
You may or may not be aware of the decline in art education in the last 70 years. If you are unaware, believe me it’s been in a steady decline.
I have the pleasure of working with Larry Gluck, Founder of Mission: Renaissance, the world’s largest fine art program, who has himself been in the fine arts for quite some time.
From apprenticing with Picaso’s old class mate portrait master Giuseppe Trotta, to graduating from the Pratt Institute, to producing and selling over 3,000 of his works of art, to creating his unique method of instruction – The Gluck Method – which is currently being taught to more than 3,000 students every week at Mission: Renaissance studios in California and Canada.
Point being, Larry knows art.
We see the results of the decline of our Nation’s art education programs everyday. You would not believe the number of art teacher applicants who come to us with a degree in the fine arts who yet express their frustration with the lack of drawing and painting skills they acquired in school.
I had a discussion with Larry Gluck a few weeks ago about the decline of education in the field of the arts, primarily the visual fine arts, ie; drawing, paintings, sculpting, etc.
Here are the 5 points that Larry pointed out in aforementioned discussion that are spear heading the decline in fine art education in America.
1. The "if it feels good then do it" method of art instruction.
This is one of the main reasons behind the Bachelor of Fine Art or Visual Arts graduate not being able to draw or paint anything aside from abstract art.
I was telling Larry how many times in high school and college I ran into the "same" art teacher. They seem to be cast from the same mold! They wear birkenstocks, they are super supportive towards anything you put on a canvas, if you SNEEZE on the canvas it is a wondrous expression of art, yet they crush any hopes you have for actually making it as a fine artist.
While this may make one, who cannot draw or paint, feel good about themselves for awhile, it teaches absolutely no fundamentals in the visual arts. The basics like value, perspective, line drawing and color are all but extinct in the classrooms today.
It would not be so bad if these classes were labeled ‘Abstract Painting 101’, but they are frequently, deceptively labeled as ‘Life Drawing’ or ‘Fine Art 101’ or ‘Still-Life Painting.’
If the student asks a question on how to make their still-life look more real they are given airy-fairy nonsense, like, "if it feels good then go with it". or "what you draw is your very own unique interpretation."
Quite simply put, this is not a workable method of teaching the arts, nor will it produce an artist who can actually paint or draw realistically.
2. The "give it to me now" mindset of society.
We live in a world of instant gratification. No need to grow your own food, there is a grocery a mile away or a McDonalds. Want to loose weight? Forget exercise there’s liposuction for that!
You get the point. The same viewpoint often entangles the art student.
You see the Masters like DaVinci and Michaelangelo actually worked to become a master. There was no 4 year degree program where you obtained a student loan, then went to some art classes, complete with books and teachers and a cafeteria.
They made their own paint. They worked for years as apprentices just to have the opportunity to watch their master in action for a moment or to receive the occasional pointer.
Since there were no books on anatomy it was very common for a serious artist to purchase a cadaver so as to dissect and study the human body, gaining knowledge of the human form that they could then translate onto canvas.
Learning how to draw and paint is very rewarding. It doesn’t take a lifetime and yes, you can learn – even if you "can’t draw a straight line." All you need is the right instruction, given by a caring and capable instructor.
3. The importance of art is not valued in today’s society, especially in education.
Why is art so important? Well for starters here is some statistical data;
Per the ‘Champions of Change, the Impact of the Arts on Learning’ study; – 82.6% of 8th graders who were involved heavily in fine arts earned mostly A’s and B’s, versus 67.2% who were not.
– Students who are not heavily involved in fine arts have more than double the chance of dropping out of school by the 10th grade.
These are but a fraction of the incredible findings noted this study. So what does our educational system do? They cut the Arts budgets! Art education is simply not being viewed as important to building our future society.
This may sound over-the-top, but when you really look at this you will see that it’s true, art is what societies culture is built upon! Think of ancient Rome, Greece, Modern day China, America. All these societies were/are a reflection of their art and artists.
What kind of culture are we building with a half-measure art education system, unworkable teaching methods, or worse yet, none at all due to budget cuts. The artist is important in building our future, yet we aren’t educating the artists!
4. "The Talent Myth," that one must be born with the ability to draw and paint.
The talent myth pervades society and it’s learning facilities. That talent is a "gift" handed down from some lofty cloud, or it’s in your genes, or the planets were perfectly aligned when creative souls were born. Name for me one other field where this is the pre-requisite.
In discussing this Larry tells us three things;
First, that every thing has a technology to it, if you learn the basics and fundamentals to it, and practice it, you can do it.
Second, after teaching art for over 30 years – currently with more than 3,000 students enrolled – I can tell you that "The Talent Myth" is exactly that – a myth. I can also tell you that the vast majority of art teachers today are either buying into the myth or do not know how teach a student with no raw natural talent.
Third: When "these bastions of art" tell someone, from their ivory tower of authority, that one cannot succeed in the arts due to lack of talent, it becomes very hard for the individual to overcome this. It basically sits on one’s ingrained fear of failure and thus another potential artist is ruined.
If an art instructor, teacher, school administrator, parent, sibling or "friend" has ever told you, your child, or a loved one that you do not have the talent to become an artist, let alone an excellent one, they have mislead you. There is still hope.
A neurosurgeon was not born with a natural ability to operate on the brain. They spent years in school, studying hard, interning for years, and learned the basics of brain surgery and thus could eventually become a successful neurosurgeon.
The same concept works for the artist. But it need not take years.
5. Schools and art teachers are not producing a real product when teaching.
One would expect that after taking art classes in college for 4 years and spending tens of thousands of dollars or more on tuition that one would be able to draw and paint like a pro.
As mentioned, we have many graduates of the arts who come to our art schools to apply for a position as an art instructor, yet who’s basic drawing and/or painting skills are elementary at best!
The art school and teachers have not produce the product in their students that they have been paid for. Why is this so widely acceptable in the Arts? One may find this almost criminal.
This is usually the result of the teachers who either don’t know the fundamentals of the visual arts, or who are unwilling or are unable to provide them to the student.
How do we know this to be true? Often we will run across a graduate who applies for an art instructor position, but whose skills in the arts are not very impressive. However they exhibit an excellent personality and eager willingness.
When hired, and put through our training program they, for the first time, really learn how to draw and paint. This is not our claim, but that of the student. In a matter of months they are not only able to draw and paint beautifully, they can and do successfully instruct others in how to do the same!
There you have all five reasons why art and education is declining in America. Hopefully you can use this information to help you and those you love in their artistic aspirations.