National Core Arts

Note: If you don’t want to read all the nonsense below the link is at the bottom.

Taking a brief moment away from the sketchbook project turned into a trip down the rabbit hole. There is a reason why, from a professional point of view, I was lost in this bit of research but that information is useless in the context of this discussion. Back on topic. I was looking over the National Core Arts Standards and I thought I would post a link to the online book below. I think it is very helpful for the representational community to have at least a cursory glance at this. It is extremely educational for us and demonstrates (possibly disappointingly) key areas that may be missing in the hierarchy of learning skills related to creating strong visual art. I have done a quick read through, and I am now moving back through it with intent of taking the time to fully understand the actual intent of the document. Instead of what my biases might cause me to miss or misinterpret.

I have a theory, one I developed some time ago, shortly after graduating from college (an arts university and another college for computer science) and atelier studies about a decade later after working on and off professionally. This theory was reinforced when I stumbled upon a hardbound copy of the New York City Public School District’s 1913 official ART curriculum ,including lesson plans, at a local used bookstore. There were key parts of the curriculum that were not even taught at art school that were listed as acceptable for middle school students. This blew my mind! It was for all intents and purposes a “traditional” approach, grounded in common practices of antiquity, to making visual art. One hundred years ago, at the advent of Modernism, students in middle school were learning skills overlooked in high school and higher education! Of interesting note I found it serendipitous that I found a book from 1913, it being one of a few key years in the evolution of modernism, at least according to art history and modernism textbooks. This theory that sits on the outer-rim of my thoughts, is founded on an idea that the lack of skill based teaching has led to a general environment of misunderstanding and derision by the general public when it comes to arts based education. What was once a unifying subject matter, taking all the disciplines and culminating in the expression and use of the major traditional educational disciplines, E.G. the sciences, math, literature, and history has since moved mostly towards expressionism. I am well aware there are small ponds of highly skilled and knowledgeable teachers in the public arena but there inversely many more that are not. If you are one of those skilled teachers, this does not apply to you and I don’t envy the battles you must have to fight. In turn the public at large now views visual art education as a throw away subject. On the rare occasion that a student were to rise above that stigma with skilled work it is almost often greeted with comments of, “that guy or girl sure is talented” or “I wish I could do that”, overlooking and dismissing what was a great deal of hard work and dedication on behalf of the fledgling artist. Instead of a community of people developing key skillsets which might have a lasting life long impact we have instead a community that looks at skilled technicians as some sort of visual arts wizard. With a vacuum of skill based curricula and age appropriate goals, for me it is no wonder that arts curriculums are the first to be cut and viewed as disposable. Sadly and controversially, it doesn’t help the cause when art teachers lack the key art skillsets that would be required to teach strong technical execution in conjunction with using traditional educational disciplines. Having worked in the media industry (as an artist), museums, public schools, and arts based nonprofits for over a 20 years, this is an epidemic (epidemic might be a bit strong in this case) that I have become quite familiar with both personally and professionally.

I know at this point, in one manner or another, this is an old conversation within the representational community. Still, dead horses don’t feel the beat down so why not beat another one? Probably not the best metaphor, whatever moving on; looking over the National Core Arts Curriculum, a key aspect I find troubling is that the acquisition of skills, especially base level skills that could be cultivated to automaticity and other advanced skills are pretty far down on the list within the hierarchy. I appears to be a second thought, or third thought, after the ideation process. This seems backward to me and counter productive to the growth of skills to create freely and with a level excellence. Of additional concern, what is the quantifiable measure of proficiency? Can that be quantified. I think it can but perhaps I am wrong.

I’ll elaborate more once I have spent a bit more time with the information, and once I have extracted the information, and hopefully worked towards a better understanding that isn’t so influenced by bias. Even though I am aware that it would be entirely impossible to dismiss bias completely.

I would love to hear others opinions on the National Core Arts and how that impacts programming and vis-a-vid public perception of general public art programs. Opinions from other artists and teachers would be wonderful. If you have read this document and\or use it, I would love to read what you have to say. What kind of impact do you think this makes? What changes could be logically made to this and is it reasonable to expect those suggestions to be heard or implemented. Is it fine as it is? Why? What ever else you might feel is pertinent to this subject matter.

Thanks for your time and best wishes.


I think an easy solution would be to just separate the technical aspects and create a new category that stresses the importance of learning key skills. As simple as adding a category such as Developing and simply put that first. Instead of four key categories there would be five: Developing, Creating, Producing, Responding, and Connecting. Without disrupting the entire core this may be a minimally invasive path towards concerns mentioned above. The reason for the dedicated category is that the act of learning skills isn’t always a creative process in the sense used in the linked document above, at least not for the student. Yes they are creating a visual art work, but the concept and subject matter are not their creation. Rather they are copying and learning skills based on exercises developed by a person with a high level of proficiency. The general path towards knowledge and ability that is generally attributed to the historical and current “atelier” movements. I use quotes as I think that word has run its course but the concepts are as strong as ever. Considering the individuals who started this forum, I know you all know this but I felt it important to clarify.

Feel free to school me if I am incorrect by any measure. Pun intended.