Myths and Truths About Art by @MissSMerrill

In celebration of art…

I recently read ‘Oops! Helping children learn accidentally’ by Hywel Roberts. A great book and it affirmed my belief in a holistic approach to education. In the book, he suggests writing a list of myths and truths about your particular subject. I thought it was the perfect opportunity and sounded very much like a blog post. So here it is – myths and truths about art.

  • Myth – You need to be good at art to teach it!

Truth – Art is a way of responding to the world in the way that you see it. How you represent it is how you see it. Like any other subject children will not develop any skill in art unless they experience it and have opportunity to develop their skills. They are not needing you to create a masterpiece that Da Vinci would be in awe of. They want meaningful opportunities to play and experiment with a range of materials. If you feel you are not ‘skilled’ in art this can be an exploration and learning experience for both teacher and class.

  • Myth – Art isn’t important.

Truth – Sadly the government are doing nothing but perpetuate this myth. Art is a ‘non-academic subject’; therefore it’s not important. Schools do not tend to put art down on their SEF form following the end of key stage results, nor do they use Pupil Tracker to monitor progress in the subject. Art can be used though as a tool. As I have said in my previous blogs, art is a pedagogy and can be used to enhance learning. It can be used as a stimulus for writing, developing inference in reading, a way of learning about other cultures, developing empathy, learning about the past etc. Most importantly it’s an opportunity for the children to express their feelings, their personal responses to the world around them. It allows them to develop their ability to analyse, question and evaluate. It also teaches them to be resilient and to solve problems. Surely this makes art invaluable? I was recently sent a link to an article in the New York Times that talked about art being a key source for the very definition of life. Profound stuff indeed!

  • Myth – Art makes a mess.

Truth – This one isn’t really a myth in the true sense of the word. Yes, art does make a mess depending on what you do. Paint, clay, collage etc can all turn a classroom into a battlefield of paint splashes, spilt water, lost glue lids and paper that hamsters could use as bedding littered across the floor. I teach art in every classroom in the school; during the lesson, the classroom looks like a creative, productive and happy classroom. When I leave that room you would have no idea that half an hour before we had the paint etc out. It is all about having systems in place. Clear organisation for materials that both support the children, the classroom and also the art coordinator who constantly needs to buy more tissue paper or red paint because it’s been wasted. As I am writing this now I can sense another blog post coming on so I won’t go on about this for much longer. I will say though that children need to make a mess. They need to get messy. They also need to learn how to tidy up after themselves. If we deny the opportunity to do this by giving them nothing more than a pencil and some pencil crayons we deny them a life skill.

  • Myth – Art is about drawing pretty pictures

Truth – Yes we all hope something aesthetically pleasing is produced during an art lesson, but not always. Art is about experimenting with a range of materials. As I have said previously, it is about expressing yourself. Art is about learning about places, people and events. It’s about opening up the mind to see that art can offer more than an opportunity to fill that display board in the corridor.

  • Myth – Art should only be accessed during special ‘art’ weeks.

Truth – I think you already know my response to this. I believe in a holistic approach to education. All subjects, where possible (I know there are exceptions) can be linked together to create a meaningful, engaging curriculum. Using art can enhance and add a different dimension to what is being taught. For example: for a theme on World War One you would look at photographs, artefacts, read accounts, read newspapers, poetry by Wilfred Owen etc. Why not include paintings by World War One painters? These are soldiers responses to conflict. Some soldiers wrote letters, diaries, poetry, others painted. It gives a more rounded view of the war.

These are a few of the myths I came up with. Things that I have heard or seen over the years. If you can think of any others please let me know, I would love the opportunity to try to dispel any. After all, art is power!

This is a re-blog post originally posted by @MissSMerrill and published with kind permission. The article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2020 by the UKEd Editorial team in accordance with website and policy updates.

You can read more via Miss Merrill by clicking here, and follow her on Twitter…

The original post can be found here.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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