You might think art is an optional extra in a crowded school curriculum, a nice thing to have but not essential, and certainly not a core subject, like maths or science or English.
You might think that while it has intrinsic worth as a form of recreation and self-expression, its educational value doesn’t extend much beyond that.
I think you should think again.
This year, Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) is hosting its 10th annual Student Art Exhibition. The fact it has lasted so long, and has grown over the years, is a sign that our Member Schools, their teachers and their students, all see great value in the role of arts education.
When we embarked on this cultural journey 10 years ago, we displayed just 47 art works from seven Member Schools. This year, we have 183 diverse exhibits from 13 Member Schools. All up, over the past decade, close to 2000 students have submitted work to the exhibition.
The exhibition’s success reflects the importance that ISV and our members attach to arts education. It’s not an optional extra. It’s an essential part of the curriculum.
The framers of the Australian Curriculum think so, too.
In explaining the rationale for arts in the curriculum, they talk about art as an intellectual, emotional and sensory experience in which students acquire knowledge, skills and understanding. They learn how to express ideas, thoughts and opinions as they discover and interpret the world. Yes, the arts entertain, but they also ‘contribute to the development of confident and creative individuals, nurturing and challenging active and informed citizens’.
‘The Streets of Italy and Germany’ – Samantha Buckman, Billanook College.
Developing confident and creative individuals – that’s the core role of our schools.
Consider what students learn when they study art.
They learn how to think creatively. When they learn the skills to express their thoughts, they gain in confidence. In deciding which tools they will use to express those thoughts, they learn how to solve problems. They learn how to preserve, how to concentrate, communicate and collaborate.
As Michelangelo put it, they use their brains. In the process, what they learn in the art studio can be applied to their other studies – yes, their maths and their science.
Arts education forms the building blocks that are essential if we are to build the creative industries of the future.
To see what some of those building blocks look like, I encourage you to visit the exhibition at Shell House, 1 Spring Street, Melbourne. The exhibition is open from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm, weekdays only, until Friday 2 October 2015. School groups are advised to organise a visit with Anne Smith or Melinda Hargreaves at ISV.