Stopping to smell, let alone see, the roses is too time consuming for most members of today’s society. An effective art program takes students beyond simple coverage of material to a more meaningful place where the goal is to “’uncover’ what lies below the surface” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2006, p. 103). Art teachers play an important role in encouraging students to truly see the world by “uncovering” the amazing sights that students miss due to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Blandy and Hoffman (1993) reference Graff (1990), identifying the “special role that art can play in “awakening people to their surroundings” (p. 29). Art teachers help students to push the pause button on the constant flow of visual information, allowing students to understand, appreciate and assess the imagery of the world. The gift of true sight is a powerful thing to share with students, eloquently phrased by Ruskin (1888) as, “I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may learn to love Nature, than teach the looking at Nature that they may learn to draw” (p. xi).
When individuals truly see the world, they begin to understand the connections that exist. Connections foster a sense of community and community is key to the development of a child. When connections are made within a community, art serves its true purpose as a “process of communication” (Feldman, 1996, p.27), opening lines between students, teachers, and the community at large. Because art uses knowledge from science, history, language and mathematics, it can also serve as a natural connector between all subject areas. Feldman (1996) and Ellison (2010) describe the connections that are fostered through education as “bridge building.” Feldman (1996) refers directly to art, stating, “art…is a bridge between individuals and the communities in which they have their beings” (p. 6). Art can help students to build a bridge between what they know and what they need to know, between themselves and their community, and between the community and the world.
In today’s world, community is changing and growing due to globalization and the prevalence of technology. All subject areas are in flux and must respond to the needs of a global community and tomorrow’s workers. An understanding of art helps to prepare students for the demands they will face in the 21st century marketplace. By fostering creative thinking, problem solving, and personal expression, art education provides students with the essential skills needed for the future. As stated by Ohler (2000), “art is fast becoming the new literacy for our times” (p. 16).
Blandy, D. & Hoffman, E. (1993). Toward an art education of place. Studies in Art Education, 35 (1), 22-33.