What Is the Value of Art Education?

Linda Pauley of the United States Department of Education accepts artwork from Holly Simonsen, of Cedar Wood Elementary in Bothell, WA. The painting will hang in the Department’s Seattle regional offices. In the background are winning works from Crayola’s Visual Voices program. These pieces will hang on walls throughout the Department’s regional offices and at the LBJ building in Washington, D.C.

Student Art Inspires Department of Education

Last week while  attending the National Art Education Association conference in Seattle, Wash., in my capacity as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, I was a little bit surprised when some art teachers asked, “Why are you guys here?”

My answer was that, consistent with the President’s call for a well-rounded education in his plan to reauthorize ESEA and fix No Child Left Behind, I felt it was important to be present for art teachers.

One example of how art functions at the U.S. Department of Education was illustrated at the conference by two officials, Doug Herbert and Jacquelyn Zimmermann.  They presented on overview of  The Headquarters Art Exhibit Program that  fills the lobby of the LBJ building in Washington, D.C ., and described the significance of having student art on display at the Department.

The Department has two exhibit spaces in the lobby.  One accommodates about 60 winners of the 87 year old Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.   Student artwork honored by this program is exhibited for an entire year.  A second gallery holds a rotating exhibit of exemplary student art from schools and districts across America.  This museum quality display rotates every 2-3 months.

The Headquarters Art Exhibit Program places artifacts of student achievement in a space through which every headquarters employee and official must pass each day.  The students of America have painted pictures that teach us what student learning looks like and those images animate the department with a constant reminder of why we do this work.

My questions for teachers are these:  What do young artists teach us through their accomplishments?  How can we include art in our instruction so that every student becomes well-rounded and fully prepared for college and careers?

Steve Owens
Stephen Owens is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from Calais, Vermont.


  1. Great post, Steve! I like to display work in various subjects, and show its value to the community. An example is the sixth grade math “doodles” hanging outside of my classroom right now. They demonstrate geometric concepts, motivate students, and are something different than everyday math. We can and should integrate the arts into all subjects.

  2. Art throughout school for me has provided an occasion to teach me original thought and creativity in ideas. I feel as though without the arts’ presence in my education, I would not have developed as strong a capacity for fresh ideas in regards to different facets of life, but instead would mostly just spit out whatever I’ve been taught from textbooks. Art has taught me that there are things in life that don’t necessarily have numerical significance or a specific mode of measurement, yet are nevertheless just as crucial to the development of a healthy adult. I’m currently a sophomore at Kansas State University studying Music Education with an emphasis in Voice. I’ve been thinking about this topic pretty heavily lately, and as of yet, this is the extent of my conclusion.

  3. Whenever I am in a school or any other place that children’s art is exhibited, I make a beeline to take a closer look. I think that kids’ art tells us a huge amount about what their lives are like, what they are thinking about, what’s important to them — I see student artwork as a barometer of our culture as well as just really fun to look at.

  4. I live in a city that has a University of Arts and Design and it has such a profound impact on the culture here. I think more schools should really help students excel in art if that is their passion.

  5. Great post. I recently stumbled upon a new Internet project for the arts that looks very promising, called Art of Me. The web address is http://artfme.com/ . It is not trying to sell anything, but rather it seeks to provide an online space where talented actors, musicians, writers, dancers, and other artists, can display and discuss their works, collaborate with each other, and interact with fans.

  6. I’m really excited that this article is here because I am a senior at an arts high school and we are in the top 100 high schools in the country. Art has a direct affect on academics. Many of my freinds have been accepted into ivy league schools, but we are fighting for our existence every year. Art teaches us numerous skills such as team work, communication, thinking out of the box, leadership, etc: skills that we need for our future. It also gives us a reason to stay in school. I’ve been going to art schools since elementary school and I know that it has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about. It has also exposed us to different cultures and different lifestyles. In my school, we have become a sort of family, pursuing our dreams and goals. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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