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By G. Balasubramanian

For long, art education has been one of the most marginalized subjects in our curriculum and in the totality of the educational architecture. It has always been treated by the schools and the parents as of no utilitarian value as against the subjects that would empower the learners to win a bread and butter. The ‘elitist’ approach to study of certain subjects had brought certain kind of classicism to a few disciplines at the cost of several other subjects and art was no exception. The intrinsic value of art education has neither been clearly brought out to the school community nor an appropriate resource, both human and otherwise, has been inducted to scaffold the holistic learning with the spirit of Art.

Pablo Picasso remarked “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” He adds “Every child is an artist, but the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” As art is associated with imagination, intuition, creativity, fantasy and novelty, an education system that is top-down in its approach, that which promotes only the legacy of knowledge rather than synthesis of knowledge, where the learning is preached rather than facilitated, art stands to suffer through a competitive strangulation by several other disciplines. Detailing what should a good piece art should do, A Cruz observes “Art should disturb the comfortable, and comfort the disturbed.” Art, in its several manifestations, both as performing and utilitarian has the unique power of reaching out to the human emotions, impacting them, nursing them, nurturing them and facilitating the human cognition and experience to expand their universe continuously and to express their inner soul with a meaning that is absolutely unique to the individual. This purpose of art is achieved by all its forms and representations – painting, dance, music, sculpture, theater and others. Nandalal Bose, one of the pioneers of modern art says “Art is life-long meditation and not a hobby.” Its medium of expression is restrained by structures and strategies, but its soul encompasses all expressions of life.

Art Education, therefore, forms a vital aspect of the human learning. No wonder, the National Policy of Education in its draft, has called for an inclusive and integrated approach to art education, by seeking it to be a part of all the disciplines of learning – languages, mathematics, sciences and others. It is indeed a step in the right direction. Before one engages to specialization in a discipline of art, it is important to develop ‘sense and sensitivity’ to an engagement with art. This process has to start from the early childhood learning. Further, scientific evidences and neurological researches have gone to prove the role of art education in bringing effective synergy between the right brain and left-brain faculties and to facilitate the power of synaesthesia of the brain. Thus, art education, both directly and indirectly, promotes all creative faculties of mind and to help the learners to engage with more innovative thinking. It is also indicated through a survey that many Nobel prize winners appear to be practicing music much better than the general public. The words of Pythagoras, the great mathematician, goes to prove this point with clarity. “There is geometry in the humming of the strings and there is poetry in the spacing of the spheres.”

As integral to all forms of learning, art education has the capacity to activate all forms of intelligence- visual, musical, kinaesthetic , naturalistic and others. Pedagogical exercises need to be revamped to bring home this inclusivity and integration, so that the thought dynamics of younger kids blossom with the ability to appreciate the unity in nature. Further, in a consumerist world, where every thought, meaning and product is dissected into their micro-existential level to see their utility, there is increasing evidence of lack of empathy, compassion, aesthetic sense and appreciation of both the unity as well as the diversity, art education is bound to elevate the thought dynamics to a more humanistic level and promote the above faculties along with the ethical considerations they deserve.

The objectives of art education should therefore needs to have a paradigm shift:

1. To understand and appreciate the diversity of the universe and see the aesthetic architecture of nature.

2. To empower the human mind to be more humanistic, empathetic, compassionate, nature friendly and expressive.

3. To see the existence and inter-play of beauty of thoughts, concepts and processes as the undercurrent of all disciplines of learning

4. To understand and develop art as self-engaging exercise for personal growth to celebrate cosmic exuberance and derive the joy of existence.

5. To engage with art as an instrument of powerful interaction with community for cultural excellence and enhanced social-consciousness.

One does hope that the New Policy of Education not only drives home the new perspectives to art education, but provides the much-needed freedom to schools to work in context. It is equally important to educate the parents and stakeholders for the benefits of this inclusive approach, to make them understand the words of Rabindranath Tagore about art “What is Art? It is the response of an individual’s creative soul to the call of the Real.”

*This article was originally written on LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/art-education-need-new-perspective-balasubramanian-g/

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