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New Approach to Art in School

April 09, 1985

The venture of the Getty Center for Education in the Arts into the role that art can and should play in American schools and the promise of the J. Paul Getty Trust to provide "modest grants" to fund curriculum development are particularly welcome at a time of new concern about the quality of education in the United States.

A study of serious art programs in eight school districts provides a basis for the center's advocacy of a new approach to art in education, going beyond the arts-and-crafts workshop to make this a serious academic subject, taught in a systematic and rigorous way, as a companion in importance to mathematics, language, science and the other academic subjects.

"A discipline-based art-education program provides instruction in how to examine and analyze works of art, how to interpret them and how to engage in deductive and inductive reasoning about their meanings," according to Leilani Lattin Duke, director of the center. "It nurtures creativity and deepens understanding of culture and history. In sum, this type of program develops skills important to the basic education of every child."

One might say that a transformation, from frill to fundamental, is proposed.

Harold M. Williams, president of the Getty Trust, has had a ready answer for those who might question such an effort: "We believe that the study of art is fundamental to understanding the human experience and transmitting cultural values."

So it is. And the exciting potential is written in the center's report, "Beyond Creating: The Place for Art in America's Schools." This has already happened in Palo Alto, in Brooklyn, in Milwaukee, in Hopkins, Minn., Whitehall, Ohio, Virginia Beach, Va., and Champaign and Decatur, Ill. Which means that it could happen here, and should.

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