What Is the Value of Art Education?
Last week while attending the National Art Education Association conference in Seattle, Wash., in my capacity as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, I was a little bit surprised when some art teachers asked, “Why are you guys here?”
My answer was that, consistent with the President’s call for a well-rounded education in his plan to reauthorize ESEA and fix No Child Left Behind, I felt it was important to be present for art teachers.
One example of how art functions at the U.S. Department of Education was illustrated at the conference by two officials, Doug Herbert and Jacquelyn Zimmermann. They presented on overview of The Headquarters Art Exhibit Program that fills the lobby of the LBJ building in Washington, D.C ., and described the significance of having student art on display at the Department.
The Department has two exhibit spaces in the lobby. One accommodates about 60 winners of the 87 year old Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Student artwork honored by this program is exhibited for an entire year. A second gallery holds a rotating exhibit of exemplary student art from schools and districts across America. This museum quality display rotates every 2-3 months.
The Headquarters Art Exhibit Program places artifacts of student achievement in a space through which every headquarters employee and official must pass each day. The students of America have painted pictures that teach us what student learning looks like and those images animate the department with a constant reminder of why we do this work.
My questions for teachers are these: What do young artists teach us through their accomplishments? How can we include art in our instruction so that every student becomes well-rounded and fully prepared for college and careers?