“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
As an art teacher, I have spent the last two decades experiencing first hand the realm of creative arts in learning. Simply stated, it works. Through the artistic process, students develop critical thinking skills, build self esteem, make connections and experience wholeness. Art never provides one answer responses or easy explanations. It asks students and teachers to consider who they are and who they might be. Art prompts us to feel the experiences of others, and perhaps most important, to understand ourselves. All aspects of life are linked through art, and in point of fact, it is a vital connection that is denied in education.
The arts ask us to value our own experiences and various cultures. A teacher with an artist’s perspective in the classroom asks difficult questions and is concerned with developing a personal voice and multi-faceted divergent responses. The arts within a transdisciplinary curriculum model enable students to construct knowledge about themselves and the world through personal connections.
Art is never just a profession; it is a special way of viewing and exploring the world. Creative thinking and artistic ability are valuable assets in conjunction with other disciplines. Discovering subjects through art experiences is fundamental in my teaching, and provides my students with exciting opportunities to discover rudimentary concepts via the artistic process. My classes investigate, manipulate, and discover art, science, math, history and language as interconnected disciplines. Students are captivated by the beauty and pleasure of the creative process, and at the same time become fascinated and astonished by the transdisciplinary components. Unlike Einstein, the world does not always realize its debt to the imagination.
The pressures of curriculum criterion and standardized testing in education have driven the arts to the margin of school life. Worse, the arts are viewed as purely fun outlets. It is well established, however, that the arts, when integrated with other subjects create innovative ways of thinking and the development of critical thinking skills.
The arts require higher order thinking skills, individual and group efforts, and an atmosphere of controlled freedom that teaches responsibility. The concepts of fine arts programs are developed upon findings of whole brain teaching and learning research. The brain learns best through rich complex and multi-sensory environments (Roberts, 2002). Whole brain instruction is geared to pedagogical practices that amplify and unite the knowledge about left and right brain characteristics. One of the long held means of achieving whole brain instruction has been fine art (Walker, 1995). The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The artist embraces a very different kind of learning, where divergence and diversity are valued. Art is challenging. Sometimes it is beautiful, but just as often it asks difficult questions of the viewer and the artist. It does not provide easy answers and explanations that can be evaluated and quantified. Art asks us to consider who we are and who we might be. Art encourages us to feel the experiences of others and perhaps in doing so, understand ourselves.
Finally, there is the concept of art for art’s sake. Alfred North White, the great mathematician and philosopher, once said, "After you understand the sun, the stars, and the rotation of the earth, you may still miss the sunset." At the very least, creative arts in learning provides the necessary aesthetic component so that students will not only know the facts of the world, but the magnificence as well.You are God’s work of art, made new in Jesus Christ to do good things.