Free Art #@*!
I recently put it out on my Instagram story for people to reach out to me with their ideas for things they'd like to see at the studio—one of the responses, "times where kids could enjoy art FOR FREE." Not free art exploratory time, but FREE as in no cost.
Why is there a pre-conceived notion that art should be free? Why is an art class lumped into the same category as a library craft? Is it because we can purchase art supplies on our own? You wouldn't expect a gymnastics or dance class to offer something for free, or even play a sport for free...so why this hang up on paying for art? Is there doubt that the teacher knows what they are talking about because art is subjective? Is there a notion that anyone can teach art?
I think there is a huge lack of education in what an art class is. Maybe (some) parents feel this is something they get enough of in school. After all, students color worksheets and come home with cute pictures all the time, and on top of that have art class as an extracurricular. We've lost sight of what art is and its importance in education. I'm guessing if we tried to have less math in schools the protests would be never ending.
Studies show that kids that have more art in their curriculum, do better in every other subject as well. Why? Two things, creative thinking and critical thinking. A good art class will teach young artists how to do these two things on their own. Learning about the tools is part of it as well, how different materials work together, creating their own color, learning to see things differently through negative/positive space or even through emotion.
So, you might ask, how is this different than art in school? Depending on the school, teacher and approach, the only thing I can say is that the amount of time, each student gets to create, explore, learn, is limited to the class time and is often shared with a whole class of students - which makes it difficult to dive deeper. Don't get me wrong there are some amazing art teachers out there who work miracles with the time and resources they have. I'm just saying, kids still benefit from more—just like a sport requires practice, so does art. And practicing on your own at home is never the same as practicing with a coach.
Also, it's important for artist's to work at their own pace. In this world today, everything is a rush; a rush to get done, a rush to get to an end product, a rush to finish and move on to the next thing. Teaching young artists to be thoughtful with their work, to think things through on another level, inspire them to spend more time on one piece of work instead of jumping in to the next thing and to be able to communicate about their process, will translate into every aspect of their lives. I think that is invaluable.