Parent Resource

Promoting Art in DC Area Schools – Think Beyond The Paintbrush

By Lucy Wyndham

Promoting Art in D.C. – Think Beyond The Paintbrush

Art in schools shouldn’t be considered a secondary subject. It is an essential form of expression and creativity for children. This is why the District Government in D.C has put forward this year a new, incredible vision for promoting art in the city. In their cultural plan, they have recognized that art strengthens the community and brings a wide range of opportunities to children – this is why an incredible $10 million in funding has been allocated.

In schools, it has been proven that studying art is more than just putting paint on a canvas – it has a knock-on effect to other areas of development. A study by The Guggenheim found that children who took part in an art program performed better in critical thinking and literacy skills tests than those that did not. Creating their own masterpieces improved their thinking and education in other subjects. So how can art be promoted more in schools in D.C.?

Get inspired by others

Washington is a haven for art lovers, with plenty of incredible galleries to visit. The National Gallery of Art (Constitution Avenue) is a wonderful place to take school children on a field trip, purely for the sheer diversity of paintings and sculptures. Here you can be inspired by the Leonardo Di Vinci painting Ginevra de’ Benci, the only one of his works of art in America. The 19th Century French galleries are home to paintings by Cezanne and Monet.

In comparison, the Hirshhorn Museum (Seventh Street) is home to an exceptional collection of contemporary and modern art. The works by Francis Bacon, Man Ray and Jean Dubuffet can serve as incredible inspiration to children in their own drawings and paintings. Children will love talking about the colors and textures of the art they have seen. They will also learn how thoughts and feelings can be interpreted in different ways on canvas.

Sketchbooks for all

Encouraging children to draw is as simple as giving them a pencil and a sketchbook. At the start of the school year, provide all children with a sketchbook. They can use this sketchbook in the same way that you use a journal – to document the year, in a nonverbal way. Drawing your thoughts and feelings is incredibly freeing as a form of expression. A report by the Rand Corporation found that art does so much more than give them a creative outlet though – it helps them to connect to the wider world, and understand their place in the community. Arts education is an essential part of helping children to feel like they belong.

Incorporate art into other subjects

Art doesn’t have to be considered to be a standalone subject, in can be brought into many other areas of learning. For young children, combining art and maths can provide a very visual way of learning basic skills such as addition. It makes learning fun. Music and art are also are frequently intertwined, drawing inspiration from one another. You only have to listen to the music of Debussy, and it is almost like hearing one of Monet’s paintings. Older children will love projects combining both subjects. Art can also bring a whole new dimension to history lessons, just consider painting to be another form of storytelling.

From kindergarten through to college, art is relevant in all children’s lives. It can be incorporated into all stages of learning and enhance the curriculum in other subjects.