BY ALLISON GUY
Almost everyone has taken a fine arts class especially in elementary or middle school. However, fine arts education is not just for children. The fine arts can be beneficial to everyone—even busy college students. The United States have made STEM (cited science, technology, engineering, and mathematic) education a priority but the fine arts does not receive as much attention.
The fine arts include visual arts (such as painting, sculpture, and architecture), music, theatre, dance, and literature, while some sources also include film as a fine art.
First, the fine arts provide an outlet for self-expression. In Eric Trules’s words, “We are all creative, and we all have the need to express ourselves.” Unlike many other disciplines, which require students to simply memorize information and repeat it back, the fine arts allow students to express their own ideas and emotions through an original piece of work, using their emotions in a constructive way. Furthermore, through creating artwork and sharing it with others, students gain a sense that their ideas are being heard, and often feel pride and satisfaction upon completing a work.
The fine arts can also be used to help students learn content in other subject areas. Dr. Brandy Terrill, an assistant professor of Creative Arts at Salisbury University Teacher Education Department, have her elementary education students make creative journals. In the journals, they each made visual representations of the topics they were learning, creating visual artwork.
For example, one student drew different shapes on the page, colored them in, and wrote each topic inside of one shape. Dr. Terrill’s students benefitted from this, for the creative journaling exercise helped them retain the information they learned. Students can also learn content in other subjects through creative activities such as song and dance (for instance, making up a song to help remember Linnaeus’s system of biological classification). For students who are not strictly visual or auditory learners, learning information through the fine arts can be especially helpful.
Finally, the fine arts provide the benefit of creativity. Dr. Terrill also emphasized the fact that the careers today’s college students will take on in the future will likely involve the integration of content from multiple subject areas, requiring students to be, in her words, “creative problem-solvers”.
This sentiment was echoed in the 2006 report Are They Really Ready to Work? issued by The Conference Board, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families and the Society for Human Resource Management. This study found that 81% of employers rated creativity/innovation as “’very important” to job success for four-year college graduates.
Additionally, for future college graduates, 73.6% of respondents expected creativity/innovation to “increase in importance”. How can college students exercise their creativity? Participation in the fine arts! Unlike disciplines such as math or science, with the fine arts, there are no “right” and “wrong” answers, and no equations to be solved. In the process of making a sculpture or choreographing a dance routine, to name a few examples, students combine their original ideas to create a finished product. They must think “outside of the box” to create something new.
Although fine arts education is sometimes forgotten in the wake of STEM and Common Core, it definitely has its benefits, and should not be overlooked. The future of education should strive to integrate more fine art elements into school from curriculum to the educator’s teaching the curriculum.