I just finished the first week of a new semester of teaching college drawing classes. Looking into the faces of 40 students who don’t think they can make art, and don’t completely know why art is important reminds me of how crucial art is to education. But for art classes to be considered part of the core curriculum of a school, they must do more than just teach a skill set. For art to make the impact it’s capable of, it must teach life skills. And in my opinion the best teachers, regardless of subject, make each class carry a larger lesson on how to live adult life better.
My approach to drawing is to teach a student how to see better; how to be more aware of themselves and of the world. That is the basest foundation of art in my mind. It is learning about ourselves, our communities, and our world through making and experiencing change. It is changing what and how we believe.
Applying paint or charcoal to a surface immediately changes the image before us. By participating in the act of creation, art students can be taught how to create change in their own lives. Through critique, the art student can be taught self-awareness and how to step outside themselves to look objectively at their actions. By acknowledging mistakes, and making effort to improve, the art student learns to accept the process of continual growth that forms an active adult life.
Art can change the word, by changing us.
What I learned in art class is impacting my life years later. I learned a lot from the painting classes I took in college. And one particular lesson has been fresh in my mind the last month. Artists don’t always make an amazing piece of art. Painters don’t consistently paint a masterpiece. In fact, most of the time, we make a lot that are bad. Some painters throw out, or destroy, these bad paintings. Others paint over the mistakes and reframe them as something new. This ability to look at a mistake and build on it to create something successful, if applied to our personal lives can change the way we see. Reframing, coincidentally, in cognitive psychology refers to finding ways to see people, things, and events in new or different ways. In other words, learning to see better. Our perception of ourselves, and of reality makes up what we believe. If we can change how we see (change our beliefs), by reframing our view, we can change our actions, and therefore our lives. Art taught me how to reframe my mistake paintings into good paintings. It taught me how to change my beliefs so I can change my actions.
Art, if taught with these sort of life skills in mind, can actually foster the development of successful, mindful adults who are meaningful contributors to society. It can teach us how to have better, happier, and more stable lives.
It can change everything.


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