Art education in the United States

Art education in the United States

Art education in the United States reflects the social values of American culture. Apprenticeship was once the norm, however with the democratization of education, particularly as promoted by educational philosopher John Dewey, opportunities have greatly expanded.

Enrolment in art classes at the high school elective level peaked in the late 1960s—early 1970s with that period's emphasis on individuals expressing uniqueness. Currently 'art(s) magnet schools', available in many larger communities, use art(s) as a core or underlying theme to attract those students motivated by personal interest or with the intention of becoming a professional or commercial artist. It is widely reported that the arts are losing instruction time in school based upon budget cuts in combination with increasing test-based assessments of children which the federal government's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act requires. It is worth noting that while the NCLB retains the arts as part of the "core curriculum" for all schools, it does not require reporting any instruction time or assessment data for arts education content or performance standards, which is reason often cited for the decline or possible decline of arts education in American public schools.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education began awarding Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grants to support organizations with art expertise in their development of artistic curricula that helps students to better understand and retain academic information. One such model of education was created in 2006 by the Storytellers Inc. and ArtsTech (formerly Pan-Educational Institute). The curricula and method of learning is titled AXIS [ [ AXIS - Education Revolution ] ]

ince WWII

Since World War II, artist training has become the charge of colleges and universities and contemporary art has become an increasingly academic and intellectual field. Prior to World War II an artist did not need a college degree. Since that time the Bachelor of Fine Arts and then the Master of Fine Arts became required degrees to be a professional artist, necessities facilitated by "the passage of the G.I. Bill in 1944, which sent a wave of World War II veterans off to school, art school included. University art departments quickly expanded. American artists who might once have studied at quaintly bohemian, craft-intensive schools like the Art Students League (as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko did) or Black Mountain College (as Robert Rauschenberg did) or the Hans Hofmann School of Art in Greenwich Village began enrolling at universities instead. By the 60's, Yale had emerged as the leading American art academy; its alums included Chuck Close, Brice Marden, Richard Serra, Jennifer Bartlett and Robert Mangold, making it seem as if every hip artist in New York was obligated to have an Ivy League degree." ["How to Succeed in Art" by Deborah Solomon, New York Times Magazine. June 27,1999] This trend spread from the United States around the world. Now the PhD in studio art is becoming the new standard. Although in 2008 there are only two United States programs offering a PhD in studio art, "10 universities offer the degree in Australia, and it is ubiquitous in the UK, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and other countries. It is already expected for a teaching job in Malaysia." ["Art Schools: A Group Crit," p. 108. Art In America, May 2007.] As James Elkins, the chair of the department of art history, theory and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the chair of the department of art history at the University of Cork in Ireland wrote in Art in America, "By the 1960s the MFA was ubiquitous. Now the MFA is commonplace and the PhD is coming to take its place as the baseline requirement for teaching jobs." ["Art Schools: A Group Crit," p. 109. Art In America, May 2007.] This is in reference to teaching positions for studio art at the college level. The Ph.D. degree has been a standard requirement to be a professor of art education for many years.

The Picture Study Movement

The study of art appreciation in America began with the Picture Study Movement in the late 1800’s and began to fade at the end of the 1920’s. Picture study was an important part of the art education curriculum. Attention to the aesthetics in classrooms led to public interest in beautifying the school, home, and community, which was known as “Art in Daily Living”. The idea was to bring culture to the child to change the parents. [Smith, Peter (1986,Sept.) The Ecology of Picture Study, "Art Education" [48-54] .]

Picture study was made possible by the improved technologies of reproduction of images, growing public interest in art, the Progressive Movement in education, and growing numbers of immigrant children who were more visually literate than they were in English. The type of art included in the curriculum was from the Renaissance onward, but nothing considered “modern art” was taught. Often, teachers selected pictures that had a moral message. This is because a major factor in the development in aesthetics as a subject was its relationship to the moral education of the new citizens due to the influx of immigrants during the period. Aesthetics and art masterpieces were part of the popular idea of self culture, and the moralistic response to an artwork was within the capabilities of the teacher, who often did not have the artistic training to discuss the formal qualities of the artwork.

A typical Picture Study lesson was as follows: Teachers purchased materials from the Perry Picture Series, for example. This is similar to the prepackaged curriculum we have today. These materials included a teacher’s picture that was larger for the class to look at together, and then smaller reproduction approximately 2 ¾” by 2” for each child to look at. These were generally in black and white or sepia tone. Children would often collect these cards and trade them much like modern day baseball cards. The teacher would give the students a certain amount of information about the picture and the artist who created it, such as the picture’s representational content, artist’s vital statistics, and a few biographical details about the artist. These were all included in the materials so an unskilled teacher could still present the information to his or her class. Then the teacher would ask a few discussion questions. Sometimes suggestions for language arts projects or studio activities were included in the materials.

The picture study movement died out at the end of the 1920’s as a result of new ideas regarding learning art appreciation through studio work became more popular in the United States.

National organizations

National organizations promoting arts education include Americans for the Arts [ [ Americans for the Arts] ] including "Art. Ask For More." [ [ "Art. Ask For More."] ] , its national arts education public awareness campaign; Association for the Advancement of Arts Education; Arts Education Partnership [ [ Arts Education Partnership] ] ; and National Art Education Association. [ [ the National Art Education Association] ]


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