To Art or Not To Art

Submitted by Tavie Kittredge on Wed, 01/10/2018 - 00:00 - 0 Comments
Berritt Heinz creates a Little-Prince-esque print in Ms. Kessler’s ceramics class. Art is not only her favorite class, she doesn’t know how she’d get through the rest of them without it. Behind, her classmates work on other tessalations and ceramic men.

Lincoln High School offers four levels of 2D design, four levels of ceramics, photography that ranges from digital to complex dark room techniques, applied design, graphics arts, theater, and 3D printing and design. That’s not even counting its music, theater, and writing classes. Yet you are not required to take a single art class to graduate. After all, virtually no one makes a full time living off selling paintings. 


So why should you take an art class?


First, while Linoln may not require you to take art, some colleges will.


More importantly, because it might just make you a healthier, happier, more creative and successful person. 


Mr. Schmidt, Lincoln’s graphic design teacher, explains, “Art and the dawn of human civilization happened at the same time. I think that’s maybe a sign. Art is good for our brains, it’s good for creativity, and yeah, it’s a good outlet for a lot of people. At Lincoln especially, it’s essential because your schedules are packed with really academic sort of courses.”


There is scientific research to back up the health benefits of fitting art and creativity into your life. A study from “Perspectives In Public Health” (2013) combines 20 separate papers on various types of arts in community settings and, “It was found that participating in creative activities can have a positive effect on behavioral changes, self-confidence, self-esteem, levels of knowledge and physical activity [...] there is some evidence that using creative activities as part of a health-promoting strategy may be a useful method of increasing knowledge and positive behaviours in children and young people”. Basically, art is good for you. 


Mr. Schmidt hopes art will make you a more successful person, too. He says, “The real thing I’m hoping people get out of my class is just being able to think creatively. To take a problem — that’s really what all assignments, or really any art project are, its a problem you’re solving — and think how can you solve this problem in a different way. That’s a skill that’s useful in any job or just in life.”


Adding an extra class is another grade to worry about, and another thing to get done in the day. Yet, Mr. Schmidt is trying out an A or F grading system this year. This mean all you have to do is not fail, and you get full credit for the class. Mr. Schmidt says,  “I’m actually not grading artwork at all this year. I’m checking in but I’m not tallying how good a use of value it is, or how good you used your colors, because I really want to shift students’ motivation from doing artwork to check off a bunch of boxes, to doing artwork for themselves and doing it as good as they can for themselves.”


So far, Mr. Schmidt is the only teacher at Lincoln that uses the A-F system. More students might be willing to risk taking art with Mr. Schmidt’s grading system. 


Yet, the other art classes aren’t as far away as we might think. Ms. Kessler, Lincoln’s ceramic teacher says, “We use proficiency based grading in our classrooms, which means it’s a one-through-four scale. The art education community is really grabbing onto this idea that proficiency is a great way to grade. If you push the limit it might collapse, and then you shouldn’t deserve an F if you were really trying [...] The way I grade, the way that the other teachers in our art department grade, is where the student is at. Our hope is to see growth.”


A paper sign on the photography room’s door reads “The only failure in art is failing to make art.” Anyone can do it. Mr. Schmidt adds, “I think what’s crazy is that we all were born creative. I don’t know a single kid that at ages three, four, or five at a restaurant when they are given crayons isn’t drawing with the crayons and making things. I think what happens is, at some age, some adult tells you that the horse you drew has to look like this or it isn’t right and then you never draw again. I think we all are naturally creative and want to make things. It’s in our genes, so the main challenge is getting over society’s expectation of what’s that supposed to look like and just having fun.”


About the Author

Tavie Kittredge's picture

Tavie Kittredge writes poetry, short stories, and of course, news articles (with photography to match!). Outside of the magazine world, she loves competitive debate, backpacking around Oregon with her family, and reading books from random genres. 

Tavie hopes to graduate in 2020.