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Education in the arts

Brandon Keelean | Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Some of the most brilliant minds in the human race have mastered visual arts, but most modern students stop learning visual expression techniques after the clay snowmen they make in middle school. Leonardo Da Vinci used drawing to explore the human form, and the late Steve Jobs often explained how a typography class he took in college helped him in his work at Apple.

I am from Michigan. Our government passed legislation increasing the specificity of requirements for high school graduation in 2006. The new law did not go into effect until the graduating class of 2011, so I was spared the stringent new requirements of four years of math and English and three years of history and science. My brother, however, was not. These new requirements, and others like them around the nation, represent a movement away from arts education.

I received an education in art starting at a young age. My parents sent me to art camp at the age of eight; I had the opportunity to take a number of arts classes before I came to Notre Dame and I have continued my arts education here. An education in basic visual communication methods is one that would benefit any student, regardless of their intended career path. Let’s explore why.

First, an understanding of drawing or modeling is an invaluable skill to communication. To explain a complex problem or method, the ability to sketch it out on a piece of paper or build a model that represents the solution can communicate faster than words. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words — and I challenge you to find a career path that does not require you to communicate.

Second, even if you are not an artist yourself, you will likely work with an artist of one form or another at some point in your career. Design, illustration and 3D modeling, among others, affect so many of the things we see in the world. Every ad, program, logo, picture and app you see was created by an artist. (Maybe it wasn’t exactly a good artist who created them, but they were created nonetheless.) When you are trying to articulate a concept to these creative professionals, it will help to have walked in their shoes. You will know what they have to do in order to accomplish what you’ve asked of them.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it gives you a way to express yourself. The catharsis that artistic expression can provide should not be taken lightly. Child psychologists sometimes ask children to draw in order to explain their feelings because visual expression is an instinctive way we communicate. Just like writing in a journal can help clear your thoughts, painting, drawing, pottery or any number of other artistic methods allow you to express what you feel.

I cannot promise that by taking an art class you will become the next Da Vinci or Jobs, but you will probably enjoy it and it will definitely benefit you in your life and career.

So, when you are considering what to take for your fine arts requirement, think seriously about the visual arts classes offered in Riley Hall.

 

 

Contact Brandon Keelean at bkeelean@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.