Art Education Voices, Past & Present

As I pondered this past week what I might post here for Arts in Education Week, I thought about something one of my mentors John Michael once said, “What we are today is determined to a great extent by what we were yesterday.” John felt strongly that the better we understand the past, the better qualified we are to perceive the present and possible to shape the future. He instilled in his many graduate students, myself included, an appreciation for those who have contributed to the advancement of the field of art education over the years and who have worked to elevate its status in the general school curriculum.

So, as a way of acknowledging those who have helped shaped what Art Education is today, I would like to share the following 20 quotes that I gleamed from art education literature sitting on my shelves. This is certainly not a definitive inventory, it’s simply intended to highlight some of the aims, concepts and voices that has defined art education over the years.

Effective progress in composition (art) depends upon working with an organized and definite series of exercises, building one experience upon another, calling for cultivated judgment to discern and decide upon finer and finer relations.

Arthur Wesley Dow
Composition (1899)

Admitting that the teaching of art should be the strengthening of the sense of beauty, there are certain by-products which must not be obscured. These by-products are an interest in order and the habit of using the imagination.

Belle Boas
Art in the School (1924)

From the standpoint of the school curriculum, art should serve to motivate and enrich the entire curriculum, and it should contribute generously to the integration of school experience.

Leon Winslow
The Integrated School Art Program (1939)

Generally speaking, the activity of self-expression cannot be taught. Any application of an external standard, whether of technique or form, immediately induces inhibitions, and frustrates the whole aim. The role of the teacher is that of attendant, guide, inspirer, psychic midwife.

Herbert Read
Education Through Art (1943)

An art training which is presented through home problems brings art very near to everyone and makes it a part of everyday living.

Mable Russell & Elsie Wilson Gwynne
Art Education for Daily Living (1946)

It is true that art does not help many of us to earn a living, but it is also true that art can help all of us to live more happily while we are earning a living.

Florence W. Nicholas, et al.
Art for Young America (1946)

Art education that recognizes artistic activity as a general attribute of human nature and that aims at the unfolding and developing of man’s latent creative abilities will then contribute its share to the great task which faces all of us, the resurrection of a humanized world.

Henry Schaefer-Simmern
The Unfolding of Artistic Activity (1948)

I am submitting the hypothesis that art, or the arts, adequately taught, are perhaps in our day the most central and important means of education.

Irwin Edman
Art Education Today (1951)

The concepts from the behavior sciences, cultural history, and philosophy suggest a new frame of reference for teaching through the arts.

Manual Barken
A Foundation for Art Education (1955)

We have to regard it as our sacred responsibility to unfold and develop each individual’s creative ability as dim as the spark may be and kindle it to whatever flame it may conceivably develop.

Viktor Lowenfeld
Creative and Mental Growth (3rd Ed, 1957)

A philosophy of art education for our time, therefore, must take cognizance of social forces and beliefs in addition to marshalling its own special claims and interests if it is to be educationally effective and of utmost worth for the individual and for contemporary society.

Italo L. De Francesco
Art Education, Its Means and Ends (1958)

Leading art educators believe that creative expression is the best basis for art education because it is the method that does the most to develop the child as an individual and as a member of a democratic society.

Blanche Jefferson
Teaching Art to Children (1963)

To make art education more effective, the teacher must recognize other kinds of learning outside of school that may be in contrast to goals for education in school.

June King McFee
Preparation for Art (1970)

Simply providing art materials to children so that they may occupy themselves on a rainy day or discovering and training those few children who show artistic promise does not constitute art education.

Laura Chapman
Approaches to Art in Education (1978)

We believe that the natural core that can integrate work in a school is an attitude, not a subject area. We define that attitude as curiosity, aided by increasing perceptual awareness of and sensitivity to the world around us. The development of such an attitude is a natural by-product of a strong art program.

Elaine Cohen & Ruth Gainer
Art, Another Language for Learning (1995)

Mining artifacts and performance for meaning and creating culturally aware expressions interculturally and cross-culturally should be the point of postmodern art education.

Tom Anderson
Toward a Postmodern Approach to Art Education (1997)

Philosophical inquiry is not something separate from the day-to-day experiences in the artroom; rather it is an integral part of being a reflective, involved student of art, who thereby learns skills that can enhance the overall character of life.

Marilyn Stewart
Thinking Through Aesthetics (1997)

A major aim of arts education is to promote the child’s ability to develop his or her mind through the experience that the creation or perception of expressive form makes possible.

Elliot Eisner
The Arts and the Creation of Mind (2002)

Just as physics education is about the movements of bicycles as much as the movements of planets, art education is about the objects, meanings, purposes, and functions of the visual arts students make and see every day as much as the art in museums.

Kerry Freedman
Teaching Visual Culture (2003)

. . . art education’s humanistic mission can better be fulfilled in the promotion of change, and the quest for social justice.

Flavia M.C. Bastos
Art Education Journal (2010)

Be sure to check out these other art education blogs that have Arts in Education Week postings:

The Teaching Palette

Wonder Brooks Extraordinaire

Mrs. Gillespie’s Blog

The Carrot Revolution

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