Teachers are often asked why students should study Art in school. The common responses relate to creative thinking, broadening the mind and feeding the soul: all of which do little to address fears about ‘soft’ subjects, university entrance, careers and long-term financial well-being. Contrary to popular belief, however, creative subjects are no longer a well-trodden route to poverty; they are an excellent choice for a growing number of students.
Here are nine reasons why:
The world is filled with computers, smartphones, tablets and other portable electronic devices. Almost all businesses have an online presence, with online advertising increasing by the day. We are connected to the internet for long periods, seeking information, socialising, playing, shopping, watching videos and engaging in other forms of online entertainment. The demand for web designers, app designers, software designers, graphic designers, digital illustrators, multimedia artists, video producers, online publishers, animation artists, game designers and many other digital careers is undergoing unprecedented growth.
For the first time ever, those who make fine art, sculptures, photographs, fashion garments and other hand-crafted products are able to market and sell these directly to the public – on a large scale – without going through a third-party such as a gallery. Marketing and selling products via an artist website or print-on-demand facility enables artists to ship printed images and products to an audience that would previously never have known they existed. Instead of institutions or established galleries deciding which artworks ‘make it’, the public votes work into the spotlight through viral sharing on social media.
Part of the joy of a school art course is that you don’t just study Art: you make it. Those who are skilful, driven and passionate – and produce high quality, gut-wrenching work – are in a position to achieve recognition even while studying. With broadband streaming into your living room, youth is no longer a barrier to success.
Some people excel at mathematics. Others have strengths in written language. Others excel in creative areas such as Art and Design. If you are lucky enough to excel in two or three of these areas, you are part of a much smaller subset of the population. Those who are multi-skilled are astronomically more useful, well-rounded, hireable and capable of excelling in a much wider range of professions. Unless you are aiming for a degree that requires particular specialism (university websites clearly outline recommended and required subjects), it can be beneficial to select a wide range of subjects.
James Catterall, leading professor and Chair of the Faculty at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, has studied 12,000 students over twelve years. His research demonstrates that involvement in the arts (both Visual Art and Performing Art) is associated with higher levels of attainment in both high school and university. Catterall also notes that studying the arts can have other positive benefits such as greater involvement in community service.
Art enhances fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, lateral thinking, complex analysis and critical thinking skills. No matter what career you choose, those who can arrange, present and display material in a way that is aesthetically pleasing have an advantage.
Art and Design qualifications have an engaging workload. Students who take the subject must adapt as a matter of survival. While the workload can be an initial shock hose who survive emerge with focus, organizational and time management skills that many other students dream of
Art programmes begin with observation of the real world: recording, analysis and creation of a visual response to the surroundings. Art makes students look at things anew – even mundane ordinary aspects of the world. The fluffy, ‘feel good’ reasons that are usually given for selecting Art as a subject are given because they are right. Art does fill the soul. There is something magical about smearing pencil and paint across a piece of paper and sculpting form with your hands. Communicating with color and shape and form awakens the imagination; it opens a door to ‘now’. If you love making art, you’ll miss it when it’s gone. And if you do choose to study Art, chances are, it will be your favorite class of the day.