We all know how important it is for children to learn math, science, and reading. However, research has proven that art is integral for their development as well. In some schools, teachers are moving beyond finger painting for even the youngest child and introducing them to Monet, and Van Gogh. Art appreciation for children not only includes making art of their own but looking and learning about the great artists of the art world.
Children Benefit from Art in Early Childhood
In 2015 the National Endowment for the Arts found strong evidence that art affects children even as infants. The analysts found a link between art and emotional skills as well as vital social skills like sharing and helping. Further studies revealed how art can help children learn other subjects. We know now that art helps children understand the world around them.
For children who are involved in art, both making and looking, there are multiple benefits. As these children go through their school years they are more likely to miss less school days. Studies have even shown these children win awards for their attendance. With the social skills art fosters, children who have art in their lives often take part in math and science fairs. It’s been discovered that children involved in art are academic achievers, have higher SAT scores, and are most likely find gainful employment thanks to their creativity. As recently as 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics found that students who take art classes or visit museums achieve higher scores on their tests.
With all of these known factors, today art education is still on the decline and the first program to be cut during budget season in schools across the country. When surveyed, sixty-six percent of public-school teachers expressed concern that art was being pushed to the backburner in favor of a need for math or language arts. Seventeen percent of elementary schools in the United States do not have visual arts as a subject. Even still, children can learn to appreciate art outside of a formal school program.
Art Appreciation Begins at Home
With the many benefits to gain from being exposed to and learning to appreciate art, children can learn at home without a formal plan. Art, whether creating or admiring, can begin at any age and evolve as the child grows.
The easiest way to begin is to have art in the home. Having paintings and photographs taken by professional photographers on the walls are great conversation starters. Talking to children about what is hanging on the walls of their home fosters an interest in art. Even better, children should be taken on shopping trips that involve buying art for the home. It’s a great way to immerse them in art and teach them about different artists.
A gallery wall in the home is the closest to having your own private museum as you can get. Children in a household should have an active part in the planning, such as choosing the room and the wall to build the gallery on. For families getting ready to shop for paintings and photographs, doing a little online research beforehand is also a great way to learn about art. Researching with children is a great way to talk about art – what does the painting look like or mean to them? Who is the artist and what style do they work in? Questions like these stimulate an interest in art and lead to a deeper interest in art appreciation.
The Museum Experience for Children
Many museums throughout the country have made visiting museums a more family friendly experience to foster an interest in art for children of all ages. The art education programs available in these museums work to grow a collaborative relationship between looking at art and creating it.
Children’s programs in museums today have created art programs that engage children by introducing them to a current exhibition or one that is permanent. One such museum is New York’s Whitney Museum where an abundance of programs has been put in place for children of all ages. The Whitney Museum’s Open Studio is a great example of encouraging children to create and learn about art in a casual and nurturing environment. The program’s casual feel is fostered by the fact families can drop in on weekends and explore the world of art on their own time.
In Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago offers children the opportunity to create art surrounded by the artwork of great artists. It’s the institute’s belief that children making art in the museum can help them connect to their own creativity while seeing the art that surrounds them. In addition to children being able to create art, the Institute found a way to get young visitors interest in the exhibitions. Programs like their JourneyMaker offers families the ability to create their own customized tour through the museum based on their choosing from eight storylines. Several storylines were chosen because of their appeal to children such as superheroes, strange and wondrous beasts, and time travel.
In New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, The Living Room was created within the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art. The goal was to create a communal space for art exploration for children and their families. Within The Living Room families gather to see art, make art, and participate in interactive performances.
Museum programs like these all have one goal in mind – making art more accessible for all children and showing them art can be found outside a museum too. Children are learning that art is all around them. Appreciating art within and outside a museum helps children understand and appreciate art. Developing an aesthetic appreciation at an early age helps children develop their eyes and minds as they begin to think about what they see in life.
The Future of Art
Children who are exposed to art and engage in art appreciation have not only been shown to do better academically, but have their eyes opened to opportunities they may have previously not been shown.
In particular, it was found that teenagers from underserved communities who are exposed to the world of art often become inspired to pursuit art as a career. These teens who previously had not seen or created art who now have learned about curators, gallerists, and artists see the range of careers in art they can consider. Viewing contemporary art today more than ever is showing children from all walks of life the diversity the contemporary art world offers. Today’s art is breaking away from the criteria used for centuries, taking gender, ethnicity, and social identities into consideration. The result is the opening of an important conversation.
Art appreciation is integral to the academic, social, and emotional development of all children. Today’s museums are rethinking traditional “don’t touch” mindsets, looking for ways to develop and nurture a love of art. With all the technology that surrounds children, it is more important than ever to find ways to bring art appreciation into every child’s life.