Thursday, January 27, 2022

Education in need of art, and vice versa



Tara O’Neill

We can bluff a lot in this lifetime, and that’s often OK, but when it’s important, when it matters, I prefer to reference those wiser than I. So I am borrowing heavily from artist and instructor Robert Genn and author Elliot Eisner in regards to art in education; and offering from myself a little something about education in art. Robert Genn is author of the free on-line Twice-Weekly Letter found at

At it’s best, and at any level, art education teaches students creative problem solving, how to tap into one’s inner-reservoir to create innovative solutions. Crazily, it is the first department to get cut from the budget in public schools. Art is as paramount as the three R’s to a well-rounded education, because an artful perspective is as necessary to one’s success as technical proficiency – whatever the field.

In his posting on 8/27/12, Genn references an enlightening book written by Elliot Eisner: The Arts and the Creation of Mind:

“Eisner is, among other things, an enthusiast for art education in schools. Among his insights are “Ten Lessons the Arts Teach.” Eisner discusses the many ways to teach art. Among the popular systems he looks at are ‘Discipline-Based Art Education,’ ‘Art Education as Visual Culture,’ ‘Creative Problem Solving,’ ‘Creative Self-Expression’ and ‘Preparation for the World of Work.’ The book shows the distinct uniqueness of art education. The second of Eisner’s “Ten Lessons” reads, “The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.”

…The teaching of art stretches young minds to new levels of curiosity…”

So, if you’re an art student, the parent of an art student, or an arts educator, please raise your voice in support of art in education, and while you’re at it, it’s not too much to ask that students studying art deserve competent lessons applicable to the pursuit of a career.

The significant complaint I’ve heard and read (and hold myself) from both art students and art educators is that the business of art is sorely lacking in both lower and upper level educational institutions.

The business of being an artist is still a business. Rare in America is this taught as a subject; plenty are programs that help a student explore their artistry, their creative potential, even (hopefully) technique – but poor few will guide them towards the goal of a career.

Some topics strangely not covered in mainstream arts curriculum: the current protocol for contacting a gallery and what is considered a professional presentation; creating a proper portfolio; what belongs in a resume, a biography, an artist‘s statement; and the tips taught to the students of business: how to describe what you do in ten seconds (the elevator ride), in thirty seconds (waiting on line), and, if your listener is still interested, the two-minute expansion. And how do you keep that listener interested?

Business and marketing are what most art curriculums are missing. If you’re an artist hoping to exhibit through galleries you need to know they get their commissions for a reason. They carry the cost of their venues, the insurances, the burdens of marketing and handling of transactions, and the gamble that the artist they are representing is not a “flash in the pan.” You’ll need every tool available to make a proper presentation and to intelligently respond to a variety of offers.

However, If you are an artist (of any discipline) who plans to represent yourself, then arm yourself with the tools available to any smart independent businessperson. After all, you will be committing yourself to the responsibilities of not only “manufacturing,” but also shipping and handling, bookkeeping and accounting, clerical, marketing and advertising, purchasing, scheduling, contract law…ok, you get my drift.

I don’t say these things to discourage the emerging artist, but to inform them that they have the right, the obligation, to demand of their institution of study the same information and disciplines so readily bestowed on students of other fields (law, medicine, business, mathematics, etc.).

I am convinced that all academic majors would benefit from art classes, and that all art majors would surely benefit from business courses.

Tara O’Neill, a lifelong, award-winning, artist has been an area resident since 1967. She holds degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida and is cur-rently represented by Blue Mangrove Gallery on Marco Island. Visit

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