Allan Storer Richter inspired, large abstract impasto paintings

It was refreshing, writes Allan Storer, to hear Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate Art Galleries, speaking at the launch of the Tate’s annual report and urging the Government to teach the arts in schools; BBC News Education Report September 2012

   
  
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    Richter inspired “squeegee” painting, Allan Storer

Richter inspired “squeegee” painting, Allan Storer

Education Secretary Michael Gove has put the Baccalaureate in place to be taught in schools in England from 2015. Initially covering English, maths and the sciences, it will later include history or geography and a language.

Serota expresses many parents concern when he fears there might no longer be room in the school timetable for art, design, dance, drama or music.

The arts are fundamental he says enabling young people to express themselves, to achieve success in later life” and “there is a real risk that fewer and fewer schools will provide learning opportunities in the arts”.

The UK’s leading edge in creativity may be lost,” Sir Nicholas added, referring to the February 2012 report on arts teaching in schools written for the government by Darren Henley, of Classic FM.

Although the report gave a firm endorsement of the importance of cultural learning in the curriculum and received a favourable response from government, Sir Nicholas said he was concerned its proposals would not be implemented commenting.

 “The arts were central to a rounded curriculum”.

 “Pupils at schools where the arts were integrated into the curriculum showed stronger performance in maths, English, critical thinking and verbal skills” and that a great body of evidence had been gathered over the past 20 or 30 years which demonstrated that schools which gave time to cultural learning, benefit both in that sphere and also to the other disciplines. Serota went on to say

“By making art a part of the national curriculum, we give the next generation of artists, designers, engineers, creators and cultural leaders the opportunity to develop the imagination and skills that are vital to our future.”

To enjoy school and function as normal individuals young people require more creativity and less emphasis on drilling and teaching to the test” Lord Bew.  BBC Radio 4’s Today programme

The fact that art can and does make a considerable positive difference in the way we connect to the world is one I can wholeheartedly appreciate after many years working in an educational environment with young people and adults experiencing complex emotional needs, a fact that I believe any school of thought, govt. society or community will ignore at its own peril.

“Education through Art,” Sir Herbert Edward Read,

One of Britain’s most influential editors, poet, academic, teacher, critic of literature and art and defender of children, Sir Herbert Edward Read, DSO, MC,  (1893–1968), a towering figure in education, in his publication, “Education Through Art,” 1943, strongly argued that education should be synonymous with art and he identified aesthetic values with life values. This publication marked a turning point, and historic benchmark in the culture of education.

Read’s quote, “Art leads the child out of itself” (Read, 1966, p.56) appears to be lost in present educational methodology and practice.

Read argues that Children speak with an open heart; and their language is an aesthetic, unconscious, involuntarily expression of many things that reflect their inner life, Art he says allows the child to feel and follow. To create, observe, listen, believe, and encounter.  We adults cannot feel or see their world as a child does, through our conventional lives.  We have long forgotten and fail to appreciate the child’s artistic impact on the world.

In, and out of school, children are not just expressing themselves; they are expressing themselves in aesthetic ways.

Unconsciously the child, Read observed, feeds upon its own personality, dancing, singing, creating characters and situations in an aesthetic world of conversations, activities, and stories formed from the childhood experience..

Importantly giving the child a voice and allowing him or her to think “outside the box” and permission to express an opinion; to question what he or she may perceive to be the many challenges of growing up.

Children, through art experience bring out into the open these sensitive issues. How they construct their perception of the real in their artwork involves the full expressiveness of their psychological capacities.  

Art can and does provide a coping and, or defence mechanism in the process of socialisation and in more extreme cases is a coping mechanism allowing us to act out socially unacceptable impulses by converting them into a more acceptable form.

In psychology this is termed sublimation a mature type of defence mechanism where socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations are consciously transformed into socially acceptable actions or behaviour, possibly converting the initial impulse in the long term. Freud saw sublimation as serving a higher cultural or socially useful purpose, as in the creation of art or inventions “making it possible for higher psychical activities, scientific, artistic or ideological, to play such an important part in civilised life”.

For example, a person experiencing extreme anger of frustration might well express himself or herself through “angry art” or physical sport as a means of venting frustration.

I know that that young people and vulnerable adults all with complex needs and emotional issues feel they have no voice in a modern society which is not alien to their everyday basic, simplistic needs. Despite our technological progress and drive for economic prowess there is still an element of the “hunter, gatherer in society. Individuals who simply want to work and live are not interested in the high expectations of a goal orientated, market led economy.    These individuals relying on imagination and instinct to survive cannot and do not naturally identify with the apparent corporate and consumer image of modern Britain. 

In this context Nicholas Serota’s concern of “cultural learning. …being more important than ever” and “that the arts have a primary role to play in a world that is dependent on literacy of all kinds, including visual,” I feel is almost prophetic.

Public cuts to arts will affect every child in the country and as Serota says there is the” real risk that fewer and fewer schools will provide learning opportunities in the arts. The UK’s leading edge in creativity may be lost.”

I see other problems too, in that a whole generation of children will lose their sense of culture as well as the ability to analyse, question and exercise choice. The coping skills they need to live fulfilling successful lives.

BBC News Education Report September 2012