why art matters Brooke Zimmerly

It's a no-brainer that not everyone is a great artist, but that doesn't mean one can't practice the use of art on a day-to-day basis- or if that’s too much, a week-to-week basis. Regardless, multiple studies have shown over the years that art education, especially in primary and secondary schools, improves our minds and the way we think and act, and our intelligence. Art is a vital subject to the younger mind- it helps kids understand life in a way that can’t be put into words and also has many developmental benefits attached.

This is a piece I did. Meaning: exploration of the mind and body through art.

According to Lynch (2012), these developmental benefits include: Motor skills, language development, decision making, visual learning, inventiveness, cultural awareness, and improved academic performance.


>Motor Skills: According to the National Institutes of Health, many developmental milestones are influenced by art- i.e. the average three year old should begin to draw circles as well as use safety scissors.

>Language Development: Making art/evaluating art helps develop basic descriptive language skills like the use of shapes, colors, sizes, etc.

>Decision Making: In the course of making art, kids are faced with multiple decisions that they have to make, this skill follows them throughout life. Art helps kids be more creative at problem solving in which they are forced to try something new, therefore taking them outside of their comfort zone.

>Visual Learning: Art education allows students to gain a new perspective on the world that's different than what they have read about-it helps kids interpret and use visual information and make their own decisions based off of what they see.

>Inventiveness: Art, itself, is an invention of its own- kids gain a sense of innovation and creation, which helps be more unique and creative on their own.

>Cultural Awareness: If kids understand where the artist is coming from and WHY they chose to do something, it helps them see someone else's perspective and interpretation of reality other than their own.

>Improved Academic Performance: Multiple studies have shown a strong correlation between art and academic achievement- more about this will be detailed below

Improved Academic Performance:

Info graphic I made based on the academic improvements seen with art. Sources: http://artsaskformore.artsusa.org/artsed_facts/001.html and https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-arts-education

Studies go back as far as the 1990's, and probably even further.

In 1996, with the YouthARTS Development Project, a study showed that art education has positive impacts on at-risk youth by decreasing delinquent behavior and acts of truancy. This study also showed that there was a positive correlation between academic improvement and those who participated in after school/summer programs that focused on arts and crafts.

In 1998, studies show that young artists, compared to their peers, are more likely to...

>Attend music, art, and dance classes nearly three times as frequently

>Participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently

>Read for pleasure nearly twice as often

>Perform community service more than four times as often

Fast-forward to 2006, where researchers STILL were finding correlations between art and improved academic achievement. Lead by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, this study suggests that the kids who were in one of the Guggenheim art programs outperformed those who were not in six categories based on literacy and critical thinking skills.

Typically when studies are done 10 years apart, you can expect to see some improvements or changes made to the results- but in this case, it doesn't. I think that says a lot about how art will always be a prominent tool we can use to sharpen our minds. The fact that it isn't being used more still baffles me, I can't stress enough how important it is to keep the arts programs in our youth's school system, especially when the developmental years are critical (primary school).


My Perspective:

In my opinion, art is a vital subject that should be taken more seriously- especially after multiple studies have shown various benefits varying from developmental to behavioral to academics.

By the end of my sophomore year, my overall GPA was a solid 2.9, which was below honors. This definitely came as a shock to me, but looking back at it, I understand the issue. My first art class in high school was during my junior year and was called Painting, Drawing, and Printmaking. I can't begin to describe how much it helped me in every other subject-especially my AP English 11 class.

It was in the morning, so I was able to do what I love first thing in the morning- which ultimately led to good days. Being able to express myself and reality in ways that words and numbers and text can't helped me with my use of words because I had a deeper understanding of what I wanted to say, but couldn't. Art is deeper than words, which is why it was so easy for me to write after expressing myself through a painting or a drawing.

By the end of my junior year, my overall GPA rose to a 3.4- which IS NOT easy to do in one year. Taking an art class allowed me to relax and not stress out and it gave me a reason to go to school. Art gave me my motivation back- if it weren't for art, I most likely would not be at James Madison University.

In my senior year, I decided to challenge myself and take AP Studio Art.

Challenge, indeed.

AP Studio Art is undoubtedly the hardest class I have ever taken. Ever. Before that gets debated, I've taken nine AP classes throughout high school, including: AP Human Geography, AP European History, AP Psychology, AP Biology, AP Language and Composition, AP Statistics, AP Physics, AP Literature and Composition, and finally, AP Studio Art.

AP Studio Art trumps them all, by far. I have never had a class that challenged me as a person, not just as a student. I believe thats the difference between core subjects and art- art challenges you to find yourself where you would never have searched before, core subjects simply challenge you as a student for the grades.

Not only does it challenge you more as a person, but I believe art holds more valuable life lessons than any core subject can teach- not job applicable lessons, actual valuable life lessons. There are 10 lessons that the National Art Education Association endorsed that Elliot Eisner wrote in his book, "The Arts and the Creation of Mind", and I find them to be very true- especially after looking back at what I have experienced and am still experiencing. The 10 lessons are:

1. To make GOOD JUDGMENTS about qualitative relationships.

2. Problems have MORE than ONE solution.

3. Teaches PERSPECTIVE, to see and interpret the world in many different ways.

4. CHANGE is okay- have the ABILITY and WILLINGNESS to surrender and adapt.

5. The limits of language do not define the limits of our COGNITION- neither words nor numbers can exhaust what we KNOW.

6. SMALL differences can have LARGE effects.

7. Think through and within a material- IMAGES become REAL.

8. Help children LEARN what cannot be said- helps children FEEL and reach into their poetic capacities to do so.

9. The arts enable children to have EXPERIENCE that no other source can give to us- allows them to DISCOVER the range and variety of what they're FEELING.

10. BELIEVE in what is IMPORTANT


I encourage everyone to find an escape through art- whether it be painting, music, theater, etc. ALL are beneficial to your mind. Be kind to your mind and feed it the right information and challenge yourself.

To me, the correlation between the arts and other achievements go beyond just reading about studies and what they find- it's a prominent part of my life and who I am today. Again, you don't have to be a spectacular artist to enjoy art and the benefits that come with it- just find a niche and do it.

Sources Cited:

-Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press.

-Quick facts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://artsaskformore.artsusa.org/artsed_facts/001.html

-Kennedy, R. (2006). Guggenheim Study Suggests Arts Education Benefits Literacy Skills. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/27/books/27gugg.html

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