Rant 48: Art and Value and Education
Philip Watkins, Schoolyard, 2010. Oil on canvas. 64cm x 54cm. Credit: Philip Watkins
How do we expose young people in schools to art whilst retaining its alternative status? Does defining art as part of academia dull its potential to challenge the traditions of learning? Matthew Giraudeau questions the value of art within education.
Making art is not a functional activity. It does not feed us; it does not provide us with shelter.
In many ways making art involves asking questions about the value of functional activity.
Most of the artists I studied with at university had endured educational experiences that were unsuccessful in one way or another.
Whether these experiences led them to study art would be hard to say, but I am certain that for me, art was an alternative to traditional modes of learning.
What is the function of an artist working with students in a traditional educational establishment?
It seems to me to be something of a paradox: artists are allowed to introduce disruptive or critical ideas only if they ultimately reinforce existing ideas of educational value
Various studies claim that art is directly beneficial to exam grades, and even studies that oppose this idea write about the unique skills that art education provides.
But this usefulness is the very thing that most artists are trying to escape.
I certainly wouldn't have focused on art if I had known that it was providing me with transferable skills.
Defining art as part of an academic education strips it of its alternative status.
But how would students access this alternative if it was not made available to them?
Without artists working in schools, students may well presume that there are only two ways of sustaining yourself through art: becoming a celebrity artist or an art teacher.
Maybe the paradoxical position that artists occupy within education is valuable in itself.
If an artist in a school can make reference to the tensions between traditional and artistic ways of learning, then they might be able to communicate the ambiguous nature of artistic practice.
Art in education should be as much about the comprehension of a discourse with no core values and no definable outcomes, as it is about the making of art.
Contributed by Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau
Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau is an artist, writer and musician, living and working in London.
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