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Arts & Learning

October 19, 2010

In my daily life as an educator at an art museum, I can easily be caught up in the administrative aspects of my job.  With this post, I would like to step back and reflect on the importance of our jobs as art educators – whether in the classroom or at an art museum – and why learning through the arts is so important.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization that “advocates for 21st century readiness for every student.  As the United States continues to compete in a global economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the three Rs and four Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation).”  Learning through the arts plays an important role in the development of these skills.  “…the arts promote work habits that cultivate curiosity, imagination, creativity, and evaluation skills.  Students who possess these skills are better able to tolerate ambiguity, explore new realms of possibility, express their own thoughts and feelings, and understand the perspective of others.”  View a map for the arts and 21st century skills.

A four-year research initiative at the Guggenheim evaluated the impact of its pioneering arts education program Learning Through Art (LTA) on students’ problem-solving abilities and creativity.  “With this study of the Learning Through Art program, we are pleased to demonstrate that arts education helps develop the skills necessary to persistently and adaptively work through problems,” said Kim Kanatani, Deputy Director and Gail Engelberg Director of Education, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. “By asking students to think like artists, we are imparting 21st-century skills in encouraging them to approach problems with creativity and analytic thought rather than just recitation of facts.”

Finally, the National Art Education Association website has a list of Ten Lessons the Arts Teach, which include “the arts celebrate multiple perspectives” and “”the arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source.” 

I believe that experiences with works of art can be transformative, and the DMA Teaching Programs & Partnerships department values and supports the work of classroom teachers who are providing these learning experiences for students.  Thank you for the work that you do!

Molly Kysar
Head of Teaching Programs

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