The arts live continuously, and they live literally by faith: their nature and their shapes and their uses survive unchanged in all that matters through times of interruption, diminishment, neglect; they outlive governments and creeds and societies, even the very civilizations that produced them. They cannot be destroyed altogether because they represent the substance of faith and the only reality. They are what we find again when the ruins are cleared away. -Katharine Ann Porter
Because of the growing national concern for the quality of life, there is a new realization that the arts are of major importance for the education of every student. Renewed emphasis on quality art education has come with publications such as A Nation At Risk, The Carnegie Foundation Report, The Paideia Proposal, The New York Regent's Action Plan, reports from the Getty Center for Education in the Arts and Project Zero Research Institute at Harvard. There is a revised picture of the arts as intellectual and it has become so compelling that in its publication, Academic Preparation for College, the College Entrance Examination Board argues that the arts are an essential ingredient in high school education. Of the 28 new learning standards, 4 of them are in the arts.
But the arts are more than just another academic subject; they have unique properties. Individuality and invention are at least as essential as mastering technique or knowledge. Preconceived ideas and attitudes must be set aside to facilitate understanding. As the art staff works with our students, we discover that there are certain myths about the study of art that seem to surface and they create obstacles to learning. One myth is that people either have "talent" or they don't and if they don't, there is no hope for learning. Another myth is that if someone cannot draw, he or she is no good at art and never will be. It is hard to say how these misconceptions came about. There seems to be a certain mystery about the ability to produce visual work which the layman holds in awe. Nonobjective and abstract art often creates an unfamiliar visual impact and is usually met with immediate skepticism if the viewer lacks the skills of intelligent criticism and knowledge.
Art can be learned like any other subject. Further, it not only can but must be learned, for it is the foundation for effective visual perception, and the development of visual perception is fundamental to learning in any field.
Artists and students working in all media and styles have trained their perception so that they see more than the common images available to everyone; they can also shift gears readily to see in terms of contrast, brightness, line, space, color, volume and so on. One of the indirect dividends we get from the study of art is the added satisfaction we can get in the ordinary perception of the world outside of art.
Sometimes art is thought of as a language, a visual language which one learns to understand by studying how it is put together. Making art is hard work and it is a creative process that demands flexibility for both problem solving and discovery learning. Works are put together step by step, part by part. They do not spring into existence as finished wholes. The artist improvises, modifies or totally changes the original idea before arriving at the finished concept. The artist learns to manipulate the parts to affect the way people see the whole of their work.
Art as aesthetic experience is concerned not only with making things but also with deepening understandings and attitudes through a study of past and present cultures. Aesthetics can be considered a philosophical branch of knowledge that deals with the opening up the of the artistic world through questioning, perceiving, and discussion on questions which are often disturbing, and which have never been adequately resolved.
As teachers of art at Scarsdale High School, we believe that we are fortunate to teach in our areas of expertise. We know the importance of the arts as being central to the curriculum. We become intimately involved in our students' needs and take pride in recognizing and helping develop their often untapped and untried capabilities.
The characteristics of the students we teach are diverse, and our courses are geared to each person's needs. The specifics of how each course is taught are rightfully the decisions to be made by the individual art teacher who is most able to design the particulars needed to bring concept and student together. A teacher may develop and assign a problem to a group or to individuals, but however the experience is organized, learning will take place uniquely in each individual. Students with learning problems, students with exceptional talent, or students with limited art experience will require differing kinds of instructional techniques or modified material.
It is not the Art Department's intention or sole desire to produce only "professional artists". We believe that art is conceived for everyone and is basic to the development of a productive creative human being.