For many the arts are just a frivolous add on to the more important core curriculum of numeracy and literacy. However in reality, the arts play a powerful part in a child’s education. Richard Florida, the famous USA economist and author said, “The arts provide a conduit to the academics.” Integrating the arts into school life expands possibilities for learning and provides opportunities for problem solving, perceptual development, lateral thinking and imaginative action. For many of us, our strongest positive memories of school are those provided by the arts (music, dance, drama, school productions, visual arts) and sport. All these pursuits provide contexts where students need to cooperate as a team and where socializing is important. Both are major sources of joy and achievement, providing valuable opportunities to develop leadership skills, self-esteem and cooperation which are all necessary life and workplace competencies.
The Arts also preserve the spirit of a culture. They can inspire, comfort and enrich an experience. George Bernard Shaw, the great Irish playwright said, “The mirror to see our face, the arts to see our soul.”
Picasso had it right when he said, "Every child is an artist", but he also added, "The problem is how to remain an artist once (s)he grows up!" As I said, for some, the visual arts (and the performing arts) have been viewed as an easy alternative to the core curriculum. What many do not consider is that the visual arts not only offer a rich opportunity to engage children in higher order thinking but are also an opportunity of teaching children to look closely to see their world. To analyse, synthesise and to create a representation that is personal, creative and expressive. The challenge is to give children the confidence to believe in their creative talent and to honour their own and others' work. Also to allow their ideas to flow freely and not allow the filters of doubt to enter their head. One only has to observe a 5 year old painting to see a truly untainted take on the world. Art naturally links so well with all aspects of the curriculum, particularly science.
In our vastly complex world, it is important we develop the capacities of our children to live meaningful lives, providing experiences which draw out intellectual capacity, emotional response, aesthetic appreciation and social responsibility. The arts do this so well.