Does an arts school make artists?

In my last post I told you I would talk a bit about a recent trip I took to Washington D.C. and what I learned about education.

You may have been reading about education a good deal in the recent public news. You don’t have to read education journals to know that education is on a path of change. Not only is distance education coming more into the highlight but the whole process of becoming educated is up for conversation and consideration. The big topic behind it all is student completion. Which means educators and politicians besides your parents want to see people go to college and get through it with a degree in hand. Overall we are looking at the end of the meandering career student that can’t settle on a major. Instead exploring the gamut of available choices. Gaining, in my opinion, a wide array of information that makes them quite interesting, but not really an expert at anything. Not that completing a degree makes one an expert. So serious is this that financial aid which the majority of college goers need to survive has been adjusted to only cover the exact needs of getting through a single degree. That means no pre prep for the degree, no failing classes, no changing ones mind about what to major in, and no second attempts. Of course I’m generalizing here but that is basically the finance power behind the new agenda in education.

Why you may ask. According to what I learned at an education conference put on by our Federal office of Education we need graduates. We need people to fill jobs in America. People with Bachelors and Masters Degrees. (Not so much Doctorates) We have millions of jobs that require higher education to enter. Is that surprising at this high unemployment time? Well it is true. We in America need our people to take on a higher level thinking and problem solving and that requires education.

Are these jobs in the arts you may ask. Some but not most is the answer. There is a need in the STEM areas. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Go into these fields and you won’t only have a job but you have a good chance of getting full scholarships for the masters portion of your education and quite possibly if you apply yourself also a scholarship for the doctorate part of your education. What good is this information if you are an artist? Let’s consider this.

Consider that art and science and technology tend to share a lot in common. Personally I was torn between being a scientist or an artist. The critical thinking and problem solving involved is shared between these professions. I find near every thing interesting in sciences. Looking back I could have been quite happy as a scientist pursuing my arts as a part of who I am. I didn’t take that path but I do believe it to be a viable path for artists. Now technology, is a natural course for artists to take. So much of today’s arts require technology skills. Film making, web design, animation, the list is extensive. Each requires creative thinking, inventive thinking, problem solving, and the focused dedication to complete the tasks at hand. I have been enjoying for some years now the creative approaches to art that artists with strong technology backgrounds are making.

Are you wondering if this artist dean is actually encouraging potential artist to not go to art school? No, I am encouraging you, however, to look at the avenues of art making that are beyond the traditional. While I am a champion of the traditional tool use of painting, sculpting, dance, music, and theater I am also an educator. I see the expansion of our hard sciences, our social sciences, and our technology as avenues to be creative. Isn’t that what artist do? Be creative. Think about it. You can have your cake and eat it to if you consider a broader vision of what art making is about.

Just recently I was talking to one of my Dance teachers. He is a brilliant man. Highly talented, creative, with an excellent background in the field of dance. From his recent learning and exploration of where dance is going today I was enlightened to the social science of dance. To the interpretation of our bodies and our interactions with the world around us. This is a social science not a step by step learning of certain moves. It requires creativity and study into the human experience. A study that could well be enhanced with Sociology, International Studies, Negotiations, History, Languages, all of which could inform not only the dance but the student’s experience with the world. An experience that could bring to them employment opportunities that not only enhance their lives but enhance the lives of others.

Throughout my many years in education administration I’ve often wished that more administrators had a background in the arts. I believe that it would influence their openness to others, expand their creativity in problem solving, and provide them with solutions that are beyond the mundane or what has already been done.

While I champion and encourage the arts I also see that it may be a time where artists might consider sharing their creative intelligence in ways that add to our global development beyond the gallery and the theater.

Until next time. Go out and experience some art.

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