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The Falmouth Enterprise, July 10, 2007

In Support of Increased Art Education in the Schools
By David F. Kelley

As I understand it, the Massachusetts Department of Education is seeking a new Commissioner of Education and is asking for public comment to help determine key issues. The following are my own personal arguments for persuading the MDE to seriously recognize the importance of art within our society and art education in the schools, their long-term benefits, establishing step-by-step goals, and increasing the budgets to meet these goals.

When asked "what is the impact of science on your life," school children have no difficulty providing answers since good science info is always present in textbooks, on TV, in publications and elsewhere. What helps here is many scientific activities have been personalized and given energy through the exploits of Bob Ballard, James Kirk, Jacques Cousteau, Albert Einstein, Krista McCauliff and Neil Armstrong.

When asked "what is the impact of art on your life," school children and their parents have difficulty providing answers beyond a recent MFA exhibition, publicity for excessive art auction sales or Congress questioning the guidelines of the NEA. It's interesting that the personal taste of the American public has soared in recent years and the demand for newer and better products has put many in deep credit card debt. What the public doesn't realize is that most of these products were created by artists. Artists called industrial designers, architects, graphic designers, filmmakers, digital illustrators, designers of fashions, furniture, interiors and so on.

With some exceptions, the work and name of most is not personalized like in science, but hidden behind the many corporate names that employ them.

The study and application of science is not only important for the advancement of knowledge, but critical for seeking solutions to many of our problems today and in the future. That's why so much funding for most of the sciences is available for education, research and development. Promotion of these needs and advancements, plus the offshoots such as movies, TV specials, textbooks and the like make us all aware of the impact of science on our lives.

Since the products of artists impacts the daily lives of us all, why doesn't art get the same respect and promotion that science does?

Ironically, the efforts of artists promote science (as moviemakers, book designers, scientific and medical illustrators, advertising photographers, art directors and etc.) and these are a big part of what we do as artists. To be fair, some of the equipment used by these artists is science based: computers, cameras, special effects products which show a direct colaboration between science and the arts. The question still remains though, Why? Is it because many of the various science industries are corporate minded public companies which require promotion, profit and growth? Partially, but I think there is something deeper.

Science and engineering students at MIT and art and design students at the Rhode Island School of Design receive the best creative educations in the world. They are exposed to the brightest minds directly or through study and develop their problem solving skills from different perspectives. Creative education at its best is what they are receiving. Their heads are not being filled up with the knowledge necessary to practice law or management, teach or sell, they are learning how to solve the problems and create the products of the future. What's interesting about these students is that many will never work in their fields of study or do so only briefly and go for further study in other disciplines. What happens then? Here's a true example: A young woman graduated from RISD with a major in illustration, worked briefly in the field then went to law school. After graduation she worked as a lawyer for a while then went back to school for an MBA, returned to work her way up the ladder and is now the CEO of a corporation.When asked for the secret of her success she replied, "it was the creative problem solving education that I received at the Rhode Island School of Design."

Here are suggestions for what I think a well-rounded arts education program should consist of and be presented each year within the standard K-12 curriculum:

A. The history and evolution of art, architecture and related fields, their impact on society and history with problems assigned to help reinforce the curriculum. It's interesting how the products of cultural anthropology can be presented here as art objects along with the development of different products (windmills, crossbows, Viking knorr, the ideas of Leonardo, clovis point and etc.).

B. A study of the best creative minds in history, how they worked, how they thought with assignments given to solve simple problems based on their thinking and how it was affected by the period in which they lived. It's interesting how religion, politics, philosophy, war, plague can be worked into this.

C. Exposure to the different art materials and tools used by professionals in all creative art fields (painting,drawing, model making, sculpture, objects, clothing, etc.) and the discovery of your latent skills. This will help develop an appreciation by all of the problems artists from all disciplines face. It will also be the beginning of skill development by those who will ultimately become professional artists.

To Conclude: A major problem workers in all fields in the U.S. face today and in the future is job loss due to a variety of factors such as sudden downsizing, the loss of jobs to cheap labor overseas or to new immigrants, and new technology requiring new skills.

Most people are unprepared to deal with this, some handle it well and thrive. I believe that workers of the future will handle this problem more successfully if their minds are developed to solve problems creatively and basically create their own approach to the work world through a solid foundation gained from creative art education in the schools.

I believe this can be done if the education model used in colleges like MIT and RISD is modified and applied to an art education curriculum in the schools. It can be given other names such as creative education, problem solving education, etc.

Prepared by David F. Kelley, Falmouth, MA 02540. Copyright © 2007 by David F. Kelley

About the author
Following graduation from Providence College, David Kelley studied at the Rhode Island School of Design for 2 years which helped prepare him for a successful career as an artist working in several creative disciplines. These include book design, graphic design, medical and scientific illustration, photography and as a fine artist which provided many opportunities to collaborate on science projects within these disciplines. He is a member of the Falmouth Cultural Council, a former president and board member of two community art centers, the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset and the Falmouth Artists Guild. He is an active board member of the Falmouth Artists Guild who recently completed building a new community art center in Falmouth.

For more information about David and to see his work, please visit
www.davidkelleydesign.com. for illustration and design and
www.davidkelleyoriginals.com for his fine arts work.

To contact. send an email to: dfkelley@pair.com
 
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