Find Out What Art Educators Do
Reviewed by Jon Konen, District Superintendent
Even in a culture that is focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills to fill tech-driven jobs, there is a need for quality art educators to inspire the next generation of creative professionals and independent artists.
The importance of art education is clear when you take a deeper look into its effects on a variety of student populations – in all age groups, and even more important when applied to role art plays in society.
What Does an Art Teacher Do?
Art education jobs primarily focus on teaching the visual arts in a variety of educational settings. This can include elementary, middle and secondary schools, as well as in colleges and universities. Art educators can also be found in museums, community based programs for youth and in both the private and non-profits sectors within art based education.
The visual arts consist of art forms such as painting, architecture, sculpture, graphic design, photography, film and video. Educators in these areas are usually practitioners in their area of specialty, and may be talented artists in their own right. Some art educators may be less hands-on, such as art history educators who contribute to art education through their knowledge of a particular time period or type of art.
Regardless of the focus, these education professionals are important in the grand scheme of academia for the ways they help students understand the humanities and the world around them in ways that core subjects cannot.
Art gives individuals a chance to express themselves in an abstract way that benefits and is challenged by subjective criticism. Art educators allow and encourage for this expression to develop.
Art educators play a pivotal role in child development, meaning art teachers at the elementary level offer young students more than just play time with messy supplies. Art helps children develop their fine motor skills, especially when practicing drawing or painting, and when using supplies such as scissors, beads and string for craft projects.
Art classes have also been found to help in the development of students’ decision-making and critical thinking skills.
Language development is also linked to art. When kids talk about the colors, shapes and objects they see, and discuss the art they create, they practice putting words and imagery together. Art can also enhance storytelling skills, which can have a positive impact on their social skills. There are endless ways that art, and art teachers, can benefit young learners both in and out of the classroom.
As students move through elementary grades into secondary school, older learners continue to benefit from art educators, expanding the language, cognitive and social skills as they relate to and through art in the classroom.
At the college level, art educators can teach graduates student how to refine the skills of a master printmaker, provide the instruction and background that allows a painter to develop an original technique, or simply expose students majoring in other subjects to the importance and relevance of art to human history.
Art educators can also play unique roles outside of traditional learning environments, such as helping prisoners or victims of violence express feelings they have a hard time expressing. This reinforces the notion that art can be therapeutic for people of all walks of life, regardless of their previous exposure to the fine arts or the level of their talent.
Art educators also help artists understand how to function professionally in their area of focus. That’s why many top art colleges hire working artists to teach in residency type roles that may only last for a semester or two. Becoming a professional artist requires the ability to navigate the business side of the field as well, which may include learning how to deal with brokers and galleries, as well as delving into the marketing side of art.
The options for art educators are nearly endless, and usually reflect the age groups, mediums and passions they are most interested in.
Some colleges that offer bachelors and graduate level art education programs design their curriculum so students complete their art education requirements at the undergraduate level, then focus on one of the studio disciplines at the graduate level. You will find that schools may offer a different focus area for interested educators, or may offer generalized curriculum that is more focused on the educational aspects of art.
The best way to learn more about art education programs is to contact schools that offer these teaching degrees in your area.
Art educators can also find workshops and courses meant to help current educators meet criteria for re-certification, as well as improve their skills in particular areas. Some of these courses take place on the weekends; so current professionals can fit them into their schedules, while still allowing time for their own creative endeavors.
Art educators should also look into joining organizations such as the National Art Education Association. This association works to help elementary, middle and secondary art educators, as well as those who work at the college level, advance the visual arts curriculum nationwide.
With the essential role that art plays within our schools, our communities and in society, involved art educators are crucial to ensuring that art education stays in our schools.