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Art education in America the downward spiral

For the last 70 years art education in America has been riding a downward spiral. I have the pleasure of working with Larry Gluck, Founder of Mission: Renaissance, the world's largest fine art program, who has himself been in the fine arts for quite some time. From apprenticing with Picaso's old class mate portrait master Giuseppe Trotta, to graduating from the Pratt Institute, to producing and selling over 3,000 of his works of art, to creating his unique method of instruction - The Gluck Method - which is currently being taught to more than 3,000 students every week at Mission: Renaissance studios in California and Canada. Point being, Larry knows art. Unfortunately we happen to see the results of the products of our countries art education every week. You would not believe the number of art teacher applicants who come to us with a degree in the fine arts who yet express their frustration with the lack of drawing and painting skills they acquired in school.

I had a discussion with Larry Gluck a few weeks ago about the decline of education in the field of the arts, primarily the visual fine arts, ie; drawing, oil painting, watercolor, sculpture, etc. Here are the 5 points that Larry pointed out in aforementioned discussion that are spear heading the decline in fine art education in America. 1. The if-it-feels-good-then-go-this-it brand of art istruction. This is one of the main reasons behind the Bachelor of Fine Art or Visual Arts graduate not being able to draw or paint anything aside from abstract art. I was telling Larry how many times in high school and college I ran into the "same" art teacher.

They seem to be cast from the same mold! They wear birkenstocks, they are super supportive towards anything you put on a canvas, if you SNEEZE on the canvas it is a wondrous expression of art, yet they crush any hopes you have for actually making it as a fine artist. While this may make one, who cannot draw or paint, feel good about themselves for awhile, it teaches absolutely no fundamentals in the visual arts. The basics like value, perspective, line drawing and color are all but extinct in the classrooms today. I would not consider it such a sleight of hand if the classes were more descriptively labeled.

Instead of 'Life Drawing' or 'Fine Art 101' they should properly be named, 'Abstract Painting', Feel Good About Drawing', and 'Arts and Crafts.'.' If the student asks a question on how to make their still-life look more real they are given airy-fairy nonsense, like, "if it feels good then go with it". or "what you draw is your very own unique interpretation.

" Quite simply put, this is not a workable method of teaching the arts, nor will it produce an artist who can actually paint or draw realistically. 2. The "give it to me now" mindset of society. We reside on a planet where instant gratification is king.

No need to cultivate our own food, there happens to be 4 groceries stores in walking distance, not that we would walk of course, and there is Burger King right down the street in case we are not in the mood to cook.again. Want to loose weight? Never mind exercising, liposuction will take care of that for you! You get the point. The same point of view frequently trips ups the art student. You see the Masters like DaVinci and Michaelangelo actually worked to become a master. There did not happen to be a convenient four year degree college where a student of the arts picked up the cost of the school with a low interest payment differed student loan, took some art classes, bought highly detailed anatomy and art books, and then had lunch at the student cafeteria.

They made their own paint. They worked for years as apprentices just to have the opportunity to watch their master in action for a moment or to receive the occasional pointer. Since there were no books on anatomy it was very common for a serious artist to purchase a cadaver so as to dissect and study the human body, gaining knowledge of the human form that they could then translate onto canvas. Learning how to draw and paint is very rewarding. It doesn't take a lifetime and yes, you can learn - even if you "can't draw a straight line.All that is really required is the proper instruction delivered by a caring and able teacher.

3. The importance of art and the role the artist plays is not as valued in our society has it needs to be, and this is especially true in the field of education. Why is art so important? To start us off here is some data based on statistics; Per the 'Champions of Change, the Impact of the Arts on Learning' study; - 82.

6% of 8th graders who were involved heavily in fine arts earned mostly A's and B's, versus 67.2% who were not. - Students who are not heavily involved in fine arts have more than double the chance of dropping out of school by the 10th grade. These are but a fraction of the incredible findings noted this study. And what does are all wise and knowing education system do? They cut the Arts budgets! Art education is simply not being viewed as important to building our future society. This may sound over-the-top, but when you really look at this you will see that it's true, art is what societies culture is built upon! Think of ancient Rome, Greece, Modern day China, America.

All these societies were/are a reflection of their art and artists. What kind of culture are we building with a half-measure art education system, unworkable teaching methods, or worse yet, none at all due to budget cuts. An artist is magnificently vital in creating our future, however we are failing to educate our artists! 4.

"The Talent Myth," that one must be born with the ability to draw and paint. The talent myth pervades society and it's learning facilities. That talent is a "gift" handed down from some lofty cloud, or it's in your genes, or the planets were perfectly aligned when creative souls were born. Name for me one other field where this is the pre-requisite. In discussing this Larry tells us three things; First, that every thing has a technology to it, if you learn the basics and fundamentals to it, and practice it, you can do it.

Second, after teaching art for over 30 years - currently with more than 3,000 students enrolled - I can tell you that "The Talent Myth" is exactly that - a myth. I can also bring to your awareness that a very large population of art teachers are either buying into the talent myth or really do not have an inkling how to go about teaching the average student how to draw or paint. Third: When "these bastions of art" tell someone, from their ivory tower of authority, that one cannot succeed in the arts due to lack of talent, it becomes very hard for the individual to overcome this. It basically sits on one's ingrained fear of failure and thus another potential artist is ruined.

If an art instructor, teacher, school administrator, parent, sibling or "friend" has ever told you, your child, or a loved one that you do not have the talent to become an artist, let alone an excellent one, they have mislead you. There is still hope. A brain surgeon was not innately born with the natural ability to just to casually walk in and start operating on a brain with no formal training. They spent years in school, studying hard, interning for years, and learned the basics of brain surgery and thus could eventually become a successful neurosurgeon. The same concept works for the artist. But it need not take years.

5. Educational facilities and their teachers are not actually making a real product when 'teaching'. One would expect that after taking art classes in college for 4 years and spending tens of thousands of dollars or more on tuition that one would be able to draw and paint like a pro. As previously mentioned, we happen to have a high number of graduates in the field of art that seek employment with us as an art teacher, however their basic drawing and painting abilities leave much to be desired! The art school and teachers have not produce the product in their students that they have been paid for.

Why is this so widely acceptable in the Arts? One may find this almost criminal. This is usually the result of the teachers who either don't know the fundamentals of the visual arts, or who are unwilling or are unable to provide them to the student. How do we know this to be true? Often we will run across a graduate who applies for an art instructor position, but whose skills in the arts are not very impressive. However the potential employee exhibits a good demeanor and an enthusiastic persona. When hired, and put through our training program they, for the first time, really learn how to draw and paint.

This is not our claim, but that of the student. In a matter of months they are not only able to draw and paint beautifully, they can and do successfully instruct others in how to do the same! There you have all five reasons why art and education is declining in America. Hopefully you can use this information to help you and those you love in their artistic aspirations.

Eric Hines has worked in the field of art for over a decade as a musician, art dealer and is currently employed by Mission Renaissance, the world's largest drawing and painting instruction program in the world. He is currently taking art lessons to learn to draw and paint.


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