As an artist and art teacher I have taught students from the age of 5 to 85. I have travelled the world, experienced different cultures, met inspirational people, eaten incredible food, and lived in amazing locations; all because I studied art. Art is often seen as the soft option at school, the subject that fills the timetable or makes up the GCSE options. At parents’ evenings, you will see a queue at the Mathematics, English or Science teachers’ desks, and when they eventually do speak to the art teacher, a glazed look, a smile and often a comment, ‘Well I can’t draw, but his/her grandfather is good at art’. I sigh with a sense of incredulous disbelief as if I’m witnessing a runaway train about to crash.
Why? Read on!
The British Education system was established to enable the general public to read and write, to be numerate and to become employable. It was in the interests of the Governing classes to have an educated work force to undertake certain roles within the Industrial society to generate even greater wealth. The Rowntree and Cadbury families are good examples of this, even if you take their Quaker beliefs into account. This was perfect for the 20th Century, but ‘Hello this is 2014, has nobody noticed that things have changed?’ The age of technology, the loss of the Empire and colonies has changed the way that we work and importantly the way that we think for a new age. Yet our education system hasn’t changed.
Sir Ken Robinson, educationalist and true Guru of the importance of Creativity in education is a leading light for the survival of our developing future. (Link onto his excellent website to see a number of different articles and videos – sirkenrobinson.com) In essence he argues that we are living in a time of innovation and ideas in a world that changes every second, and yet our education system is killing creativity.
My own students tell me that they like art, but their mum or dad says that there is no job or money in it! I respond by asking them to think of something in their lives that hasn’t been designed or created. Imagine sitting at home, look around you. The clothes that you wear designed by fashion designers, the wall paper designed by interior designers, the packaging on your food, the style of your car, your house, the computer, television… the list goes on and on. All of these professions came through Art and Design Schools and Colleges.
The British Council states that the UK’s definition of the creative industries – ‘those industries that are based on individual creativity, skill and talent with the potential to create wealth and jobs through developing intellectual property’ – includes thirteen sectors: advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film, interactive leisure software (ie. video games), music, the performing arts, publishing, software, and television and radio. The Creative Industries are the fastest growing sector in the economy and are performing better than any other sector with an average increase of 10% per year.
Why study art? Well art is a language. A meta language that can be understood throughout the world. I recall Richard Seymour (www.seymourpowell.com), an Internationally renowned designer talking to my students explaining that his ideas can be expressed in a matter of seconds in a drawing that can be understood all over the world. We need thinkers; ideas people to innovate the new technologies of today. Art studies enhances and develops our creative powers. I believe that it is a subject that should be at the heart of our education system, not as an additional extra. It is this firm belief and commitment that I teach the next generation of Creatives. They are our future.