What Art Teaches Us

Nina Pschar

In the modern world we face more expressions of creativity than ever before. From advertisements, social media posts, and movie streaming, creative content is readily available at our disposal.

Yet we are faced with a disparity. As a society, we have encouraged arts as a form of entertainment while refusing to value artistic education and career paths. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers have gained the spotlight, promising wealth and success to students who commit to these fields. Since 2010, college students graduating with a STEM degree increased by 43%, growing from 338,000 to 550,000 in five years. In contrast, careers in the humanities dropped -0.4%.

The statistics are not meant to be alarming. Rather, they represent a shift in our society’s perspective on which skills define “success”. Often times, pressures placed by a student’s school or peers are not explicit. The low GPA weight for art courses often deter higher achieving students from enrolling, whereas math and science electives are encouraged. As students continue to receive implicit messages against pursuing Art, they begin to equate success with STEM subjects.

While many STEM students are successful and have rightly earned their status through diligent work, this does not mean Mathematics and Engineering are the only pathways towards success. Reflecting on history, many key figures are playwrights, sculptors, poets, and philosophers; there is no argument that Shakespeare or Picasso were not genius. In the same, Charles Darwin and Rosalind Franklin are esteemed for their contributions to science. Although we recognize a full spectrum of geniuses past, our treatment of artistic intelligence has diminished significantly.

“We do need to reaffirm the significance of science and maths to our technological prowess; but we must never forget the huge importance of teaching the arts to our future economy and cultural heritage.”

Art is a catalyst. The Harlem Renaissance, a movement centered in New York City during the 1920s, encouraged a rebirth of Black culture unique to African Americans. Artists used poetry, music, and painting to combat racism and create a new appreciation of African American culture. While art may seem separate from politics on the surface, the Harlem Renaissance brought about the momentum for what would become the Civil Rights Movement. The political potential of art has not diminished since.

But how does this apply to the student artist? Though the connection is not obvious, Ewing students have begun to rediscover a relationship with the arts. With artists attending festivals, musicians performing and composing, and writers gathering to collaborate, students have taken the lead in redefining artistic culture at the high school.

Artists are activists as well as creators. Much of the change brought about in America’s history began with a journalist, a musician, or an author. While applaud the artists of the past, we must encourage students pursuing Art today.