Art Ed: Lessons To Learn

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I stumbled across a wonderful video on the web yesterday. It highlights Adelphi University students integrating arts and technology, all in the name of STEAM education. I’m a whole-hearted supporter of STEAM, but what truly caught my attention was the nuts and bolts of it all, and that the students in the video are studying art education and k-12 education. That got me to thinking about the many opportunities a degree in art education can provide.

The name Art Education (Art Ed) clearly depicts the multidisciplinary nature of the major. That same combination is mirrored in the job world. Graduating with a BFA in Art Ed leads to a number of career choices; some are traditional in nature and others born out of necessity to reflect our changing society. Teaching visual art to children in grades k-12 is the more traditional and common route. Licensure is required to teach in any state, and credential requirements vary. The school you choose will know what’s necessary to become licensed and credentialed in and around their state.

There is also a growing need to apply art education lessons through non-traditional means.  Museums and community organizations find themselves teaching art to students of all ages via gallery and museum education programming, and community arts programming – often after school or on weekends. Educators in these fields build upon their study of art history and the community to bring new perspectives and ideas to their diverse classrooms.

Like any art discipline, study begins with understanding the basics of drawing, painting, 2-D and 3-D design. It then moves on to include studio, education, art theory, and liberal arts classes. Most programs provide students with a broad, almost generalist, art education using diverse studio electives as the vehicles for wide exposure. Other programs prefer more focused learning by encouraging artistic development and expertise in only one area. Still other programs offer students a choice between the two. Additional coursework often includes a foreign language plus the study of human development and behavior, the intersection of math and art, hands-on fieldwork, and student teaching practice. The latter two provide essential real-world opportunities to make connections between creating and teaching by writing lesson plans, designing curriculum around the visual arts, and engaging with elementary and secondary students.

In addition to their in-depth integration of visual art and education, the programs I researched all have three common themes running through their programs:

  • Incorporate a multicultural perspective into their educational processes to meet the needs of today’s multiethnic and bilingual society,
  • Address the value and necessity technology plays in art education, and
  • Address the role art and design education play in culturally focused non-profit organizations.

Many institutions across the country teach Art Education, each one having unique attributes. I included MassArt, SAIC, CCS and Pratt – among others – in my research. You can start with them, but I’d also suggest talking to your high school’s college counselors and art teachers for recommendations. Join your school’s National Art Honor Society or National Junior Art Honor Society chapter, if it has one.  If not, look into getting one started.  It’s a great place to get involved and learn more about all types of art careers.

Where Art and Science Meet

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The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one of the top institutions in the country to study art and design.  Saying the school is a leader is an understatement.

One of the institution’s more recent efforts has been to focus overdue attention on the arts as part of a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) dedicated education; turning STEM into STEAM. Many don’t realize the critical role art and design play in successfully integrating STEM into mainstream society.  Where innovation is concerned, it’s a symbiotic relationship.  Need an example? Think Steve Jobs and Apple.

Will Novosedlik is a passionate brand management consultant in Canada who recently wrote about the critical intersection where art and design collide with math, science and technology.  This collision is taking place on numerous campuses across the globe.  Read his blog, Post-Industrial Art School, and you’ll realize this collision is happening on art school campuses like RISD and Pratt, but also at less traditional and perhaps unexpected locales as well – like MIT.

What does it mean for you?

Creativity and innovation will play an increasingly essential role in our future.  If your interest is in studying art and design there are a lot of potential career paths you could walk, more than you might initially consider. There are also more places to obtain an art education than you might initially imagine.  So keep your eyes and your mind open.  If you’re passion lies at the heart of design and technology then look for schools that provide the opportunity to mesh the two.  That may be at a traditional art school – or maybe not.  If your top choice school isn’t shouting about an integrated arts – science program that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Don’t be shy; tell them about your interests and ask what type of collaboration is already in place or how open they are to new ventures.  Who knows?  You may help create a new opportunity for you and other interested students.