LivingArts: Where is art education?


Typically when people think of arts education they think of yellow school buses lined up outside museums, artists in schools or maybe kids classes and camps.  These are all true, and likely make up the bulk of all arts education activities in schools and museums. Having recently read through some information collected from artist-interviews on the same topic, it seems that artists think the same thing.

The Ministry of Education recently released a new arts curriculum that strengthens the role of art and of artists in the classroom, but we continue to hear about the lack of funding, equipment and supplies, not enough training or support for staff in the arts, and no money for bringing in artist-experts.  This is also all true, and I fear it leaves many artists with the idea that there are no opportunities for them in art education.

This is definitely not true.

Through my museum work, I spend a lot of time looking at different ways to bring the power that art has of art to teach and to inspire an ever-changing and varied audience. If all we think about is the school classroom, or the school-age child, arts education will never achieve its true potential of being the vehicle that changes the world. A bit of a grand statement perhaps, but there are so many things that other audiences can achieve through art I like to think in grand terms.

Art education is in hospitals – providing opportunities for caregivers to share precious moments with their loved ones outside of the burden of care that they live with every day.

Art education is in the streets – giving voices to people who have felt marginalized or outside the mainstream through art-making, mentorships, or simply being involved.

Art education is in the corporate workplace – encouraging business teams to communicate and problem-solve in creative ways.

Art education is in the bars and clubs – encouraging people to try something new, and to see the world in a new way.

It can be in jails, shelters, libraries, markets and retail shops. Anywhere where there are people – art education can be there. 

It’s up to the artists to break out of the old mould and reframe their educational roles, rather than being stuck in the rut of underfunded schools.  It is easy to say that schools should do better for students in the arts, but instead of waiting that kind of institutional change, I think it is better to go in new directions.