As a former art teach in the public schools of Texas and Colorado, I often wondered how they ever felt we could run a classroom on a $600 to $1200 dollar budget for the year. Often, and almost every month, I ended up pulling hundreds of dollars out of my own salary so I could afford the students “decent” materials and projects. I remember purchasing clay, copper, sculpting tools, paints, brushes, and watercolor paper. Try teaching watercolor on copy paper. It doesn’t work.
I often wondered why my classes were the ones being cut due to poor budgets the following year or semester. Often, the only success a student ever had in the public school setting was in art. I’ve actually witnessed high school kids attend school SOLELY due to the art program offered.
Art is one of those subjects which lends many times a hour “creative choice” which needs to be made, and utilizes the right hemisphere of the brain. Art expands horizons, builds confidence, assists the imagination, and releases stress. Art can actually curb hostility. Yet, it’s always the first elective to get cut when “budget cuts are in the air.”
The most beautiful art I’d ever witnessed from students came from the most disturbed and troubled of the bunch. I would secretly smile inside when the gruff, tattooed, and wild came into the class cussing like sailors, throwing fists into the air. I always knew this would be the kid who would create the most intricate of lines, choose the most brilliant of colors, and master the linear magic that made form jump from the canvas. The more powerful emotions a student had pent up, the more alive his art would be rendered.
How important is art in the public schools? About as important as the air we breathe. Take away art? Then, you may as well rip the souls out of our youth. Creating begets imagination. Imagination breeds creativity. Creativity allows sense of self. Sense of self breeds acceptance. Acceptance of self equals acceptance of others.
The student who flunks math, is poor in English skills, cannot even fathom chemistry, and fails in History can often excel in the arts. Art lends a pathway to success and pride.
Art is not an elective. Art is essential, necessary, and a subject NO SCHOOL should be without. I taught for 24 years, and still remember the smile of satisfaction a child felt when he completed a project in art. The smile which lit up a face often tired from a home life no other kid would want to live. The tiny smile that was hardly seen for the last two weeks. That small space inside of all of us that needs a hug. The warmth that only art can bring.