Monday, June 13, 2011

A role for the arts...

Some readers may remember a campaign years ago, "arts for the arts' sake," which was intended to suggest that the arts had value without us expecting anything more from them. But why should we ignore the diverse benefits of the arts and leave them uncounted? The following is from Wikipedia:
"Art for art's sake" is the usual English rendering of a French slogan, from the early 19th century, "l'art pour l'art", and expresses a philosophy that the intrinsic value of art, and the only "true" art, is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function. Such works are sometimes described as "autotelic", from the Greek autoteles, “complete in itself”, a concept that has been expanded to embrace "inner-directed" or "self-motivated" human beings.
To see the arts as thus isolated is crippling and narrow minded, in the same way that to see physics, biology or math as isolated from the arts is destructive of education. To put the arts on a pedestal takes them out of reach, and hides from the bean counters among us their true value. If we were smart in American education, we would see that making, fixing and creating are tangible extensions of literacy, moving children from one side of a consumptive balance into the other as full creative participants in human culture. Maybe balance will be restored in the next generation, for it will certainly take some time for the wisdom of the hands to build a head of steam, and for NCLB legislation and its damaging effects to be left in the dust.

The arts are important as a means through which to engage the hands in learning, thus shaping character, intellect and creative relationship between individual and society at large. Simple but true. And the hands, in turn, provide a complete rationale for the arts of all kinds in American education. If you are concerned about learning, think of the hands, if you are concerned about how to engage the hands, remember the arts. One, two. Schools designed as studio/laboratories will be the new ideal for those who manage to get their hands on straight.

Today Delbert Dowdy, wood turner, will begin his 5 day class on segmented turning at ESSA, the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I will meet him this morning to get the Clear Spring School wood shop ready to welcome the class. The turned hollow form vessel shown above is a piece of Delbert's work. Can you see in it the integration of art and math? You'd have to be fingerblind to miss it.

In the photo above, Delbert and his students have made sleds for cutting parts for segmented bowls.

Make, fix and create...

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