First off, the title of this article is a lie. Everyone can and should be an artist, and the misconception that you have to be “artsy” in order to make art is false. I recently heard a football player in my Ceramics & Sculpture class say that he does not have “an artistic bone in [his] body”, which in part inspired me to write this article — too many kids feel intimidated by art, more specifically the requirement that you must take an art class in order to graduate. Namely, these kids include those interested in STEM fields — common complaints include that art is useless, art prevents us from taking more important classes, and the most horrific one: “I can’t do art”. Future STEM majors: in this article I will attempt to persuade you that not only is art doable, it is necessary. So, turn off the cynicism for a bit and read on!
“Art is useless — I want to be a doctor!”
Making art and excelling in science are not mutually exclusive. There are artistic doctors, and there are science-loving artists — boxing yourself in this early on in life is detrimental to receiving a proper education and the argument that some of us are born left-brained or right-brained has long since been debunked. Dr. Jerome Kagan, professor at Harvard University and esteemed psychologist, says that the arts “regularly combine the three major tools that the mind uses to acquire, store, and communicate knowledge: motor skills, perceptual representation, and language.” In other words, artistic expression promotes learning instead of deterring it.
Jennifer, hopeful STEM major and fellow TP intern, argues that taking an art class “prevents [her] from taking the classes that will directly impact [her] as a STEM major. If anything, writing is more applicable in today’s world… Future employers will not ask you to outline the latest business plan by drawing an art masterpiece!” I disagree: the E in STEM stands for Engineering, a career which involves art. Don’t believe me? Check out this article on why engineers must learn to think artistically in order to excel in their field, and when you’re done with that, check out Seth Godin’s argument in his book Linchpin — artists are people who change the world, so in order to be an engineer and “change the world”, you must first learn to think like an artist. How do we learn to think like artists? Take art classes! Careers that involve either perception or representation require artistic thinking: engineering, marketing, architecture, psychology, teaching, psychiatry, business, and the list goes on.
Another useful aspect of art is that it helps with relaxation. Lakshmi, fellow TP intern, points out that “Everyone can benefit from art classes because it gives them a little release in the middle of a long day of note-taking and solving math problems. A good art teacher knows that not everyone is a Leonardo Da Vinci, and they will just want to see you put in effort in your assignments. It’s not like there is a “right” way to do art.” This is true in that most (good) art teachers do not care if you create a masterpiece so long as you tried to — all you have to do is try your best, no matter how incredibly cliché this sounds. Since expectations are not high, your art class can serve as a relaxing period. I personally have an art class right before my AP English class, so it definitely helps to calm my nerves before having to take a test or write an essay.
“Art is too hard!”
This mindset is attributed to the fact of life that is growing up — as we get older, we are deterred from participating in certain activities because we are afraid of failing. Gone are the days where we could pick up a marker and scribble out our feelings, make endless creations out of Play Doh, or turn our driveways into chalk towns… or are they? All of these activities are still feasible, the only difference being that we have become older and more jaded due to the creatively stifling nature of the education system (in the United States, to say the least). We are measured by our ability to memorize and test take, not on our ability to write a poem, draw a still life, or sculpt an object — naturally, the high school student must evolve to fit these standards. Art and creation is marginalized in the process of conforming to our number-driven society.
Due to the standards to which the common student is held to and expected to adhere to, the complaint that “art is too hard” arises. Forgetting how to do things or not doing them often enough makes them harder to do, and it really is this simple. If you do not challenge your brain to think artistically, this skill will lie dormant and you will forget how to do something so essential and inherent to the history and progression of humanity: creation.
“I don’t like any of the art classes offered at my school.”
Drawing and Painting are not for everyone, and for this reason most high schools offer a variety of art classes — Ceramics, Printmaking, Design Fundamentals, Graphic Design, Photography, and Drafting & Design are all courses at my school which fulfill the art requirement and foster creativity. Fellow TP intern, Josephine, comments that “It’s important for students to choose which type of art class they get to take. After all, you never really know if you’re good at art until you try. I, for one, am not the best artist, but art can come in so many different forms, none of which have to be perfect.” She is absolutely right! There is an art class for everyone.
Art is vital in our world and our lives. Do not dread the art requirement — embrace it!
(Check out Jinchen’s article on creativity in English class.)