Artfully Senseless

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Art is the Queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.”  Leonardo da Vinci              (from The Art of Artificial Evolution)

Does participation in the arts increase knowledge?  Since the publication of “The Mozart Effect” study, scientists have been asking this question.  Artists already know the answer is yes.  The more studies are undertaken, the more the facts will become clear. Learning is enhanced when visual art and music increase the amount of sensory input.  Conceptual learning increases with the use of creative problem solving.  Adding eyes, ears, and imagination will bring on more cognitive understanding.  It just makes sense to add the senses to education.

In her dissertation for the University of Kentucky, Jennifer Sue Shank looks at the effects visual art has on the ability to learn music.  Her paper entitled, “The effect of Visual Art on Music Listening,” examined the introduction of visual stimuli to enhanced identification of musical elements by elementary teachers.  The results showed a statistically significant increase of music learning among the group exposed to selected works of visual art while listening to music.  Shank’s paper is very interesting and well worth reading all the way through.

Karin Evans, writing for The University of California, Berkeley, covers much of the findings of research on the subject of arts and learning in her appropriately titled article, “Arts and Smarts.”  Evans covers both research findings and the skeptics’ arguments.   One of the issues Evans covers is the benefit of the arts in teaching students the ability to envision solutions.  Arts enable students to develop the use of creative problem solving.  Evans also covers research on how the arts enhance the ability of students to feel and express empathy with human emotion.

 The National Assembly of States Arts Agencies (nasaa-arts.org) discusses the finding of the relationship of increased SAT scores in students who actively participate in the arts.  The NASAA-ARTS details the benefits of art on general education in “Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Education“.  More than SAT scores are improved through the arts but SAT scores are a telling measurement of the effect of art on learning.  Abundant evidence exists on arts and learning.

In spite of this growing body of evidence, schools are drastically cutting arts education.  Slowly and methodically, the arts are being removed from courses offered.  Science teachers are in demand.  Art teachers are not.  Yet from da Vinci to Einstein, the greatest thinkers throughout history have actively engaged in both the arts and the sciences.  Without arts to engage the senses, will education grow more senseless?  It appears so.

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