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Art education is the area of learning that is based upon the visual, tangible arts—drawing, painting, sculpture, and design in jewelry, pottery, weaving, fabrics, etc. and design applied to more practical fields such as commercial graphics and home furnishings. Contemporary topics include photography, video, film, design, computer art, etc.
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Historically art was taught in Europe via the atelier Method system where artists' took on apprentices who learned their trade in much the same way as any guild such as the stonemasons or goldsmiths. As students study these pieces of ancient art that have been preserved through generations, they learn not only an aesthetic appreciation of the art forms themselves, but what was important to those civilizations as well. The first recorded art schools were established in 400 BC Greece as mentioned by Plato. The Greeks created beautiful free standing statues of their gods and goddesses. They also created exquisite pottery covered with pictures of great mythological battles. Creating such monuments to the Greek gods became an important part of their culture. In Roman culture, art was similar to the style of the Greeks, though the Romans preferred to create sculptures of real people and events and fewer of their gods. Their inspiration was said to have come from, “The various emperors throughout Rome's history who were often an inspiration for art. Real-life events such as great battles and catalysts for change also were represented in art”. Though their styles in sculptures were the same, it is said that, “the Greeks focused on durability and the beauty of the images, the Romans focused on the details and accuracy.” During the Renaissance formal training took place in art studios. The Renaissance itself was a “rebirth” of the classical age of Greece and Rome, bringing people back into focusing on morals, values, and philosophy of that era. It was also influenced by humanist philosophy which tended to move art toward realism and away from the type of religious painting and sculpture of the Middle Ages. This new direction inspired artists to explore the more metaphoric and complex styles of art. It also made them want to depict the beauty of nature. The work of the artists of the Renaissance was greatly influenced by the styles of their Greek and Roman ancestors, but was presented in new and original ways. Famous artists such as Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci are four of the world’s most well-known artist of the Renaissance and were major contributors to the development of art education. Donatello “was one of the earliest artists working with the idea of perspective. His method was sculpture and he brought dramatic shapes to life with his skills”. Because he was one of the first artists to work with the idea of perspective, this gave a new style of art to the Italian culture and his style of linear perspective was one of the distinguishing characteristics of Renaissance art and greatly influenced later generations in arts education. Raphael, another Renaissance artist,” is credited with revolutionizing portrait painting because of the style he used in the portrait of Julius II”. Raphael’s new way of making portraits also inspired other artists of the time and created the recognized Renaissance style of portrait painting. Leonardo da Vinci added to the knowledge of scholars by exploring the unknowns of the human body and recording his discoveries through detailed and breath-taking sketches. Leonardo da Vinci added in the advancement of art education because he was interested in philosophy, art, science, religion, politics and science as were those of that era. ” Historically, design has had some precedence over the fine arts with schools of design being established all over Europe in the 18th century. Later, these examples of skill and values from the early European art inspired later generations including the Colonists of early America. Education in art takes place across the life-span. Children, youth, and adults learn about art in community based institutions and organizations such as museums, local arts agencies, recreation centers, places of worship, social service agencies, and prisons among many other possible venues.
Within art school's "visual arts education" encompasses all the visual and performing arts delivered in a standards-based, sequential approach by a qualified instructor as part of the core curriculum. Its core is the study of inseparable artistic and aesthetic experience and learning.
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There are thousands of arts education curricular models or arts-based professional development for teachers that schools and community organizations use. Some assert that the core discipline of Western art education is the practice of drawing, a model which has existed since the Renaissance. This is an empirical activity which involves seeing, interpreting and discovering appropriate marks to reproduce an observed phenomena. It can be asserted that other art activities involve imaginative interpretation. Others would assert though, that issue based approaches, such as a visual culture approach to art education, define K-12 art learning today.
Prominent models include:
- A sixfold model divided into "Creative-Productive, Cultural-Historical and Critical-Responsive” components in Canada
- Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE) came to favor in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s, and it focused on specific skills including techniques, art criticism and art history.
- Current literature in the United States has shifted away from DBAE but many classrooms still use this model. Others have shifted to visual culture and diversity models.
- Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) is a theory that began in the 1970s in the United States. TAB suggests that students should be the artists and so guided on their own individual artistic interests through technique lessons and critiques, while being exposed to art history as it relates to their own work.
- In the UK the art curriculum is prescribed by the government's National Curriculum except in public or fee paying schools.
In most systems, “criticism” is understood to be criteria-based analysis established on acknowledged elements of composition and principles of design which often vary in their verbal articulation, between the different art discipline forms (applied, fine, performing, & etc.) and their many schools. Other art educational systems include the study of Aesthetics, ontology, semantics, studio praxis (empirical investigation) and phenomenology. There is no set art education curriculum content – it is a process of continual often acrimonious cultural negotiation.
Some studies show that strong art education programs have demonstrated increased student performance in other academic areas, due to art activities' exercising their brains' right hemispheres and delateralizing their thinking. Also see Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Support for art education, however, varies greatly between communities and between schools in various cultures.
Art education is not limited to formal educational institutions. Some professional artists specialize in private or semi-private instruction in their own studios. One form of this teaching style is the Atelier Method as exemplified by Gustave Moreau who taught Picasso, Braque and many other artists. Another is an artist apprenticeship in which the student learns from a professional artist while assisting the artist with their work.
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Prince Albert was particularly influential in the creation of schools of Art in the UK. Prince Charles has created The Prince's Drawing School in Hoxton to preserve the teaching of academic drawing. Current UK's curriculum is focus on interdisciplinary approach.
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Art education in schools in Netherlands strongly improved by the founding of the Dutch Art Teachers Association in 1880 and their Magazine (in 1881). In the seventies of last century were national examinations common in almost all secondary schools. Over the years struggles and problems, discussions about the right way and fights for equal qualification supposedly coloured the history of art education in the Netherlands as in other countries. The details however are of great interest for who will compare these developments with those in his own country. The painter Maarten Krabbé (1908–2005) changed the whole approach towards children drawing and painting. With his books on how to educate children in their free expression (Hidden possibilities | Verborgen Mogelijkheden (8 volumes | delen), uitbeeldingsmogelijkheden voor jonge handen (Sijthoff, Leiden 1961)) he changed the entire educational landscape. He showed how to handle the very delicate talents of children and how to treasure these.
The study of art appreciation in America began with the Picture Study Movement in the late 19th century and began to fade at the end of the 1920s. Picture study was an important part of the art education curriculum. Attention to the aesthetics in classrooms led to public interest in beautifying the school, home, and community, which was known as “Art in Daily Living”. The idea was to bring culture to the child to change the parents. The picture study movement died out at the end of the 1920s as a result of new ideas regarding learning art appreciation through studio work became more popular in the United States.
Since World War II, artist training has moved to colleges and universities, and contemporary art has become an increasingly academic and intellectual field. Prior to World War II an artist did not usually need a college degree. Since that time the Bachelor of Fine Arts and then the Master of Fine Arts became recommended degrees to be a professional artist, facilitated by "the passage of the G.I. Bill in 1944, which sent a wave of World War II veterans off to school, art school included. University art departments quickly expanded. American artists who might once have studied at bohemian, craft-intensive schools like the Art Students League, Black Mountain College, or the Hans Hofmann School of Art in Greenwich Village; began enrolling at universities instead. By the 60s, The School of Visual Arts, Pratt Institute, and Cooper Union in New York City and other art schools across the country like the Kansas City Art Institute, the San Francisco Art Institute, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Princeton and Yale had emerged as the leading American art academies. This trend spread from the United States around the world.
Enrollment in art classes at the high school level peaked in the late 1960s—early 1970s. With No Child Left Behind (NCLB)[when?] (which retains the arts as part of the "core curriculum", but does not require reporting or assessment data on this area) there has been additional decline of arts education in American public schools. The United States Department of Education now awards Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grants to support organizations with art expertise in their development of artistic curricula. After 2010, an estimate of 25% of the nation's public high schools will end all art programs.
National organizations promoting arts education include Americans for the Arts including Art. Ask For More., its national arts education public awareness campaign; Association for the Advancement of Arts Education; Arts Education Partnership.;
Professional organizations for art educators include the National Art Education Association, which publishes the practitioner-friendly journal Art Education and the research journal Studies in Art Education; USSEA (the United States Society for Education through Art) and InSEA (the International Society for Education through Art).
Education through the visual arts is an important and effective influence in allowing students, from an early age, to comprehend and implement the foundational democratic process emphasized within the United States societal structure.
On a fundamental level, democracy requires that individuals within a society believe in a philosophy of equality, and it will not prevail if these ideas are not recognized. In a society established on a democratic process, individuals believe that they can impact the world around them. They believe that a common goal, for the betterment of their existence, can be achieved. And they realize that, while every human being perceives reality in a way that is unique to them, respect of differences is the only way unity can be attained, and that individual characteristics need not be lost in a collective – but, rather, complement and enhance the process of creation of a better civilization.[original research?]
With the encouragement of art education, students not only learn how to manipulate traditional and modern tools and mediums in the art creation process, but also learn to perceive their individual works of art as representations of themselves, and to openly attempt to understand the emotional representations in the work of fellow artists.
Olivia Gude, the 2009 recipient of the prestigious National Art Education Association’s Lowenfeld Lecture Scholarship, spoke about the numerous ways in which art education is instrumental in forming an informed self- and world-aware citizen. She asserts that:
- Through art education, students develop enhanced skills for understanding the meaning making of others. Through quality art education, youth develop the capacity to attend to nuances of meaning. Most significantly, engagement with the arts teaches youth to perceive complexity as pleasure and possibility, not as irritating uncertainty. Heightened self-awareness is extended to heightened awareness of others . . .
- The vividness of art experiences blurs the boundaries between self experience and the experiences of another. Through artworks, students absorb the perceptions of others— situated in other times and places, embodied in other races, genders, ages, classes, and abilities. Through art, the self becomes vitally interested in other selves, sensing the possibilities and problems of those selves within oneself.
- A democracy cannot long function as the tyranny of uncaring majorities over various minorities of interest, nor can it long function when powerful minorities disregard the interests and needs of the majority. Democracy requires that difference be perceived not as an assault on selfhood, but as an invitation to be a fuller, more open self who incorporates the sensations and experiences of others into one’s own perceptions of the world and into one’s contributions to collective decision making.
Art education promotes the very values after which the United States was fashioned, in a way that allows children to understand and practice democracy within their immediate surroundings, as their natural enthusiasm for discovery of self and others prospers.
“Art education and special education can transform the lives of people with special needs.” 
Art education was combined with special education even before there were reforms to create special accommodations for children with special needs in typical classrooms. When it comes to art, art therapists are often used to connect with students with special needs. However, some art therapists pull students out of the classroom, causing them to be restricted in their social learning. Because of this, art therapy is reserved for students who do not have much chance for long-term improvements, but rather short-term developmental skills.
Special educator Jean Lokerson and art educator Amelia Jones wrote that “the art room is a place where learning disabilities can turn into learning assets.” Special needs students often come out of their shells and get enthusiastic about creating. Art is also a way that special educators teach their students fundamentals that they may not even realize. Gerber, B. (2011). Art education and special education: A promising partnership. Paper presented at 2011 NAEA national convention, Seattle, WA. Retrieved from
Special educator Wanda Flora tries to use art in her classroom as much as possible, because she believes it is essential that her students engage in hands on activities. “Art encourages participation in all activities”, she said. She explained that “adaptive art teachers” should be in every school to ensure that those students with special needs are encouraged and motivated in the classroom. She uses different art supplies to teach her students writing, but mostly to increase their motor development and sensory skills. There are ongoing studies that continue to prove that art and special education go hand in hand. Testing continues to prove that art in any classroom, but especially special education classrooms causes students to be motivated, enthusiastic, and in some cases, even promote learning in other subject areas.
Current Trends in Theory and Scholarship
The domain of art education is broadening to include a wider range of visual and popular culture. Current trends in scholarship employ postmodern and visual culture approaches to art education, consider effects of globalism on the production and interpretation of images and focus renewed interest on issues of creativity. Within the NAEA, research and publications are being geared toward issues of learning, community, advocacy, research and knowledge.
Art education programs at major research institutions that are addressing these trends in the United States include:
Australian Universities which have Visual / Fine Art departments or courses within their institutions have moved from Studio Based teaching models, associated with Art Schools, to more integrated theoretical / practical emphasis. University of Western Australia has moved from a Bachelor of Art degree with theoretical emphasis to a theoretical BA Art degree.
Studio based teaching initiatives integrating contextual and media elements have been implemented as part of a national Studio Teaching Project supported by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) since 2007
- Studio Teaching Project 
Cultural Appropriation within the Classroom
Cultural appropriation of crafts within the classroom can be a sensitive subject to teach. In an attempt to teach diversity, educators will make crafts which are representative of a specific culture, or society. Many times, these crafts created in schools are generic and do not celebrate the unique meaning in regards to a specific group of people. If teachers employ crafts to enhance knowledge of a specific holiday, group of people, or a culture, then measures should be taken to ensure that students creating the crafts have extensive knowledge of the origin of the craft as well as any unique meaning behind it. Unfortunately, many teachers do not go to such lengths. Dr. Richard Bay, Art Education Professor of Radford University states “It’s hard to embrace the vast knowledge necessary to learn about a culture. It’s easier for teacher’s to pick up a ‘cookie-cutter’ pattern or lesson plan and say it’s done the job.”
Individuals who employ cultural appropriation have the ability to produce works of considerable aesthetic merit. Using properties of art from different cultures such as decoration or emulation of creative process can foster a greater understanding and appreciation of crafts from different cultures. This technique can be appreciated in the production of African or Native-American mask making projects, where students emulate technique and explore new material use and construction methods which esteem those practices of different cultures.
Cultural appropriation has the potential to bring many new learning experiences into a classroom. When teachers do not take care to respect the context of art work from other cultures, they are telling students that it is ok to steal from another culture. Dr. Bay explains that taking one item from a culture, such as Day of the Dead masks, or African traditional masks and saying that these specific articles encompass the entire beliefs of a culture is an abomination to the true context of the craft. “Within cultures are sub-cultural groups, and within those sub-cultural groups are families, and each family may have a cultural context, each is to be valued.”
If cultural crafts are to be created in the classroom, there is a fine line between the celebration of a culture and abuse. When teaching cross cultural appreciation, be sure to appropriate appropriately.
- Atelier instruction
- Jensen, Eric (2001). Arts with the Brain in Mind. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. pp. 57–58, 81. ISBN 0-87120-514-9.
- Smith, Peter (1986,Sept.) The Ecology of Picture Study, Art Education[48–54].
- "How to Succeed in Art" by Deborah Solomon, New York Times Magazine. June 27, 1999
- Americans for the Arts
- Art. Ask For More.
- Arts Education Partnership
- the National Art Education Association
- "International Society for Education through Art". InSEA.org. 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
- Gude, Olivia. "Art Education for Democratic Life ." http://www.arteducators.org/research/2009_LowenfeldLecture_OliviaGude.pdf 2009 Lowenfeld Lecture. National Art Education Association. Minnesota, Minneapolis. 20 April 2009. Lecture.
- Gerber, B. (2011). "Art education and special education: A promising partnership" (PDF). Paper presented at 2011 National Art Education Association national convention, Seattle, WA. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
- Van Meter, M. L. (2010.). "Art therapy and special education" (PDF). Retrieved November 24, 2011.
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- Dr. Richard J. Bay, interviewed by L.Taylor, Radford, VA, November 28, 2011
- James O. Young, “Art, Authenticity and Appropriation” Front. Philos. China (2006) 3:455–476 (2006): 456, accessed October 2011, DOI 10.1007/s11466-006-0019-2
- Elizabeth Manley Delacruz, “Approaches to Multiculturalism in Art Education Curriculum Products: Business as Usual” Journal of Aesthetic Education(1996): 85 Accessed November 26, 2011
- Dr. Richard J. Bay, Interviewed by L.Taylor, Radford, VA, November 28, 2011