In direct response to the original premise of the exhibition, the arts being under attack in education – I’d like to make the following point. There is the old adage that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. And also the quote that “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.” – Oscar Wilde.
I don’t think that art education has the ability to produce creativity that was not there in the first place. Of course it provides a valuable grounding in the theory and the mechanics of all facets of art, but the spark has to be there in some way, before it can be kindled. I’d love books such as John Berger’s “Ways of seeing” to be required reading in schools in the same way that ‘An Inspector Calls” is. Education in the arts can be a massive eye opener for many, but how much basic art education is necessary for those who genuinely don’t have a creative bone in their body? I feel that art education’s most valuable asset, both in schools and in tertiary education, is time. Time to think, to reflect, to produce without expectation, to mess up, in a way that other facets of education don’t posses. They are more concerned with skills and information. With art education, the nurturing of something that people very often don’t realize themselves that they have is so important. For many it’s the feeling that there is something that needs to be said, in the same way as writing, which might come after the realization that this is important to them. It might never occur to the individual that they have something worth giving or saying, it needs to be coaxed out of them, and in a society that doesn’t always value that as much as the financial benefits of other paths, that can be a struggle to find in the first place. So much can be repressed and squashed by the time we get to our teenage years, when doodling and musings have to give way to serious work. Doodling and musings ARE serious work.
I’m aware that I’ve been extremely lucky to have had the arts education that I have, through GCSE, A levels and then five years at art college. And everything I’ve learned since. Along with the support from my parents and family to spend time on what often must seem like a selfish exercise – I’m eternally grateful for my early creative education, with input from very different teachers, who variously taught me about colour -Miss Rabey, about tone and shading – Mrs Susanne White, and one who let me cut pictures out of magazines for whole double lessons, without ever saying it was a waste of time. Possibly the most valuable thing I ever learned to do. Yay for Miss Sarah Nicolle.