As long as higher education has existed, visual arts and their study have dominated the aesthetics of culture and society. There are a ton of benefits to the arts, and current events in visual arts point to a field still growing to this day. Here are a few of the top stories to follow in the field of study.
Visual Arts Classes Improve Overall Academic Performance
Students are encouraged to participate in the arts from an early age. There are a few reasons for this. Of course, kids are not often taking to school quite well. The idea of structure works in contradiction to the mind of a child. For kids, things like art and play make much more sense than lectures or lessons. The trick as kids age is getting them to think a bit more academically. It comes naturally for most, given the prominence school plays in their lives. Current events in visual arts always point to finding a good way to balance this as children age.
Well, that passion for art doesn’t disappear for some. In fact, the academic rigor expected for the hard sciences or humanities turns into passion for the arts. Despite some loving art, and others not having any interest, there’s a big majority people always miss. There are a ton of students, for example, who enjoy art, but don’t excel in it. For these students, electives are available, especially in middle and high schools, to partake in the arts while still spending the majority of their studies on other subjects. This process is likely making a big difference, according to a new study.
Art as a Channel for Creativity
Creativity is not an all or nothing game. You don’t either have a ton of creativity or none. In fact, many fall in between these extremes and enjoy the visual arts without making it their primary focus. For these students, a new study points to their visual arts classes at school as being a catalyst to better grades. The study points to students involved in the arts being better students, and experiencing a better self-reported school experience. The study points to a significant difference in students taking arts classes, as opposed to those who do not participate in any sort of arts.
The explanation for this is two fold. For one, art is a great outlet for students. It offers a sort of break from the traditional academic rigor. Plus, it’s much more engaging than math or science. Another explanation points to the cognitive development of students involved in a number of subjects. Well rounded students always test better than those focused in one specific area of study. Overall, art is always going to be a draw to some students. But, for those who like art but don’t love it, it might be worth taking a class or two during middle school or high school.
The Perks of Studying in a Major City
Current events in visual arts point to a booming higher education market. For example, every major city is incredibly competitive in terms of art students, programs, and jobs post graduation. It’s the draw of school in a major city, and has been for years. For cities like New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago, students and professionals alike thrive on one another. It’s not just in the visual arts either. Major cities offer a ton of tools and resources to its students of local colleges or universities. There are a few of drawbacks too, many of which point to the limitations of making it to a program like this.
The cost of a university program in a big city is quite staggering. There are a lot of costs that go into attending a university in a city like L.A. or New York City. For one, housing is expensive, even on campus. Go off campus for an apartment, and you might be living with 4 or 5 other people just to find an affordable rent. Not to mention, proximity is important due to transportation being a big part of whether or not you make it to classes on time. That being said, the positives are quite substantial.
Visual Arts Students Reap the Rewards of Thriving Scenes
The big benefit to a school in a major city is proximity to a thriving arts scene. These scenes provide a huge help in building inspiration and connect students to those who will soon become their peers. Not only that, but the students get to show their work in a major city already supporting the arts. In smaller towns, there may not be many who actively seek out art. Sure, they might go to a concert, but art galleries are likely not super busy, happening places. A lot of places near a college campus are unique to their general area, but, for visual art students, there’s nothing like a big city like Chicago.
In a recent article, students were highlighted during their thesis gallery showing. Something striking in terms of current events in visual arts is the reach these students have. They’re not only showing their work to art students and professors. They are also showing their work to a community already invested in the art being created. Even tourists coming to big cities for these things such as paintings or sculptures get to see these students learning and growing. As a tool for education, there’s nothing quite like learning visual arts in a big city.
Activism Through the Visual Arts
There are a lot of concerns circulating social media. Every day, most of the trending topics center around social concerns and hot button issues. In a lot of ways, the visibility of these issues is greater than ever before. At the dawn of technologies like the printing press and the radio, similar upward trends occurred. The difference is not the prevalence of the issues in effected communities, but awareness of the issues in general. All in all, the goal is to let people know things are happening. Take a look in a lot of places, and you’ll see efforts to keep social issues quiet or hushed. Art, on the other hand, is incredibly concerned with getting the word out.
For a long time, art concerned itself with aesthetics. Of course, that hasn’t changed. However, there has been a rise in the number of artists who create works in an act of social justice or awareness. Since the 1960s, artists have grown increasingly politically minded. Consider the big events of the 1960s and 1970s. Things like Watergate, the Vietnam War, and high profile assassinations really created a bubble of activist energy. With all that energy, artists created works in protest of various atrocities.
Activism in the Current Age
A popular social issue at the moment is climate change, and rightfully so. Despite a largely dormant media presence in terms of coverage from mainstream outlets, climate change is a terrifying truth of today’s world. Recently, a London museum came into possession of a number of artistic works and artifacts of an activist group focused on climate change. And not just in terms of awareness, but full blown solution-finding. Extinction Rebellion is a group that creates art as a form of protest. And not just any protest, but what they call the most important kind of protest.
As with many social justice groups, protests stray away from any sort of violence. For that reason, Extinction Rebellion sees art as the best way to peacefully protest an issue or event. Its message is clear, and often enjoyable to consume or view. That makes a big difference, especially for those not particularly interested in various issues. In a world growing smaller and smaller thanks to communication technologies, art is a great way to get the word out about different causes. There are many ways to peacefully protest, but as seen by this group for climate change solutions, visual arts rule all.
Infusing the Arts into K-12 Pedagogy
The ways in which art gets taught change very little in K-12 schools. Current events in visual arts lately point to a decrease of arts funding in elementary, middle, and high schools. The issue at the heart of the matter is funding. Federal school funding is significantly harder to secure in the new national economy. For a variety of reasons, the money schools receive are being diverted to applied sciences and STEM subjects. Many school districts revert to student fees to pay for art classes and supplies. It’s tough on everyone, including the students who could benefit from the arts classes most, as we learned in the above news piece.
The stress on STEM classes makes sense, given the lacking stats of American STEM students. The United States consistently ranks low in international charts gauging science and math scores. It’s a crisis, in many ways, and the arts have suffered for it. Program cuts lead to less and less funding for the arts, which means fewer teachers and spots in the classroom for students. For all of these reasons, the arts are being left behind. If the emphasis on STEM is the reason, however, superintendents might want to think twice about the type of arts they are using in their classrooms.
Visual Arts as STEM Tool for Teaching
Pedagogy, or the philosophy of the classroom, always points to student interaction and engagement being key in teaching tougher subjects. STEM classes are often considered some of the toughest to teach, and therefore, students often lose interest and dislike the courses. Well, a recent investigation into STEM class success points to visual arts actually aiding the education experience. So much, to the point, that the arts might just be the thing that could increase STEM interest and test scores. How is this possible? It actually makes a lot of sense.
Students respond well to engaging activities. If STEM courses are consistently disliked in K-12 schools, then interest needs to increase before test scores can. If a class doesn’t love science projects, reforming them into art projects can help keep attention and interest in the topic. Even something as simple as designing a periodic table out of material from a newspaper can be more engaging than a simple lecture. Out of the box thinking in K-12 pedagogy truly pushes education forward in unexpected ways. For that reason, STEM is utilizing the very thing its cuts in funding to ensure its progress. A little ironic, no?
Insights from 25 Year Visual Arts Education Retiree
Moving from K-12 arts to higher education, the funding in a visual arts school is often fueled by those who came through the program. This could be graduates, spouses of graduates, or family members of graduates. For this reason, the experience of a graduate can really make a big difference down the road should some funding be called for. And if you know anything about higher education, you know it’s going to be called for. The big donations don’t come as often, but smaller donations that contribute sizable contributions to the efforts of an arts college make a lot of basic things happen inside of the program.
As we all know, teachers can make or break an educational experience. For teachers, however, a college or school dean can really make or break the efforts of the professors. The guidance of the entire program comes from the dean and their vision. Therefore, a great dean who sticks around often makes a lifetime impact on the subject in which they are working for. A Dean of Visual Arts needs a little extra something. A lot of energy and time goes into a great arts program. For that reason, the community at Webster University is going through a bittersweet moment.
Shaping Students Long After Retirement
Any time current events in visual arts discuss a college dean leaving, it’s often discussed that their efforts shape students long after they retire. That’s especially true for Peter Sargent, who leaves Webster College after 25 years as a Dean. Sargent is an Ivy League graduate who shaped Webster College and their College of Fine Arts forever. In his time, he won numerous awards for his guidance and leadership. Reflecting on his time at Webster, he sees the numerous fields students moved onto after going through his program as his highest achievement.
That’s a great point to make, and probably one he’s used to making when pitching projects for the college. For a lot of donations, you often have to point out why funds are worth going towards your college or university. Sargent knows this well, and cites the fields his students have moved on to shape as a case for the visual arts. No matter what arts you study, the education provides future professionals with a wide variety of knowledge. Not only in content, but also in critical thinking, a skill central to Sargent’s teaching philosophy and purpose for staying in higher education for so long.
The best way to stay on top of current events in visual arts is to read and see. Of course, reading is a great way, and online journals make it easy. But, to see the best trends in the medium, getting out and seeing art is an amazing way to interact with the art form as well.