On our facebook page, we like to post links to studies about the many ways that art education benefits children – besides the obvious stand-alone merits of learning skills in art technique, history and theory. Numerous studies prove that kids who study art do better in school and are more creative; we’ve included some links are at the end of this post so you can see them yourselves.
But what we’d like to share today are our own observations that we have seen since 1999 – that’s more than 14 years! – at The Messy Artist, teaching thousands of children over the course of that time. Here are the benefits for kids that we have seen:
- A way to communicate without words. There is a lot of talk about social-emotional intelligence these days (see NY Times magazine article). Basically defined, social-emotional intelligence teaches kids to tune in to and mange their feelings. Art gives them a tool to do this; kids can process their emotions by drawing, painting or sculpting something that relates to what’s going on inside them. And that’s a great way to stay in touch with an inner emotional life.
- Independence. Our activities and kids’ art lessons are developed to be age appropriate, and therefore encourage independence. As a child progresses through the class and realizes his or her successes, s/he becomes more willing to try out new ideas and becomes more self-assured. We encourage caregivers in the younger classes to adopt the “hands off” approach and let the children make the artistic decisions – there is no wrong way to make art. The “right way” is the way the artist (in this case the child) thinks the materials should be used. The process of expressing an artistic vision builds children’s self-esteem and sense of autonomy.
- Focus. It takes a while to make a piece of art. Sometimes completing a canvas or sculpture can take an entire class time – or two. Children learn to focus on their project and not get distracted. Which leads us to:
- Patience. Kids learn that if they keep working on it, their artwork will be finished. They SEE the results of their work and learn the value of patience when their art project is complete.
- Long term planning. In our classes for older children and the more advanced classes, many of the projects can take numerous steps, over several classes and weeks. With the instructor’s help, the children learn to break the project down in to a number of steps and figure out what they want to do in each one. For instance, in making these figure sculptures, students must decide the pose, create it from wire, coat that in rigid wrap plaster and finally paint it. Those are a lot of decisions to make to get to the end product that the artists has in mind.
- Fun. Yes, we have fun in art class! Being free to create and use art supplies (have you seen our storeroom?) is a lot of fun. We admit it!
- Bonding with adults. Our classes are small – about 12 kids, max – and the students really get to spend time with the teachers during class time. They get to develop a close relationship with an adult over the course of a session.
- Confidence. Even a child who enters a class with no previous art experience leaves with greater skill. As they look back over the work they have created during the session, the can see the gains they have made have a confidence that they can make art. And one thing we like to tell our student artists: each artist is one of a kind and only he or she – out of everyone in the whole wide world – could have made the piece of art that they’ve created.
- Respect and appreciation for other’s work. We often encourage students to look around at the art that the other students are doing. Many times students feel that their classmates are better artists than they are. We discuss how looking at your fellow student’s work is a great way to learn and get new ideas; artists all throughout history looked at and even copied other artist’s work. Copying is a compliment! When we copy someone, we often alter it and make it our own in some way. We also often have the students give a positive critique of each other’s artwork. You’d be amazed at how great the kids are at this; they are always able to find something supportive to say about everyone’s art. This is a wonderful skill and constructive for both the student reviewing the art and the student whose art is being reviewed! A win-win all around.
Many of the things that children learn in art class help them do well in school and open their minds to new ways of thinking. We can’t guarantee of course that your child will do better in school after taking art classes, but there is not doubt they will gain skills that will help them in all kinds of ways in life. Have you noticed any benefits not on this list? We’d love to hear what you think!
How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement http://www.nasaa-arts.org/Research/Key-Topics/Arts-Education/critical-evidence.pdf
Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/magazine/can-emotional-intelligence-be-taught.html?_r=0
Fact Sheet About the Benefits of Arts Education for Children http://www.artsusa.org/get_involved/advocacy/funding_resources/default_005.asp
New NEA Research Report Shows Potential Benefits of Arts Education for At-Risk Youth http://arts.gov/news/2012/new-nea-research-report-shows-potential-benefits-arts-education-risk-youth#sthash.UMdOTnbR.dpuf