Energizing Art Education

By Darby Patterson
Center for Digital Government

Electronic government has many faces. It can serve the public with online features that save time and keep people from standing in long lines at government offices. It is a tool for making the daily business of government more efficient and, it is a window that allows citizens access to information that was once locked away in file cabinets.

One of the most exciting applications of electronic government, however, is how it can be used in education. The nations schools, colleges and universities are part of the digital revolution and are discovering the unlimited resources that students today have at their fingertips. It would be a challenge to come up with a subject that is not available on the Web. And, there are plenty of search engines to take travelers wherever they want to go.

This is particularly exciting for art education – an area that’s been the subject of budget-cuts and policy changes for more than a decade. As the nation placed greater emphasis on academics, many art and music programs were put on the shelf. The Internet is an affordable and interesting way to resurrect the arts. In fact, it can do some things that conventional classrooms could never offer – like a virtual trip to the world’s greatest museums or a visit to foreign lands and cultures.

Students can go to Mexico and learn about Diego Rivera, one of the country’s best known artist. Or, travel as far away as Africa with the Kennedy Center’s African Odyssey. A trip to the Louvre in Paris is even possible. Here, students can get enlarged views of some of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures.

Artistic expression isn’t limited to the conventional arts. The site also offers interesting information about costuming. There is even a link to patterns for creating costumes, plus plenty of history about costuming in Shakespeare’s day. And, to assist teachers on the journey into cyber-art, there is a rich listing of lesson plans from a variety of resources.

Music education has also migrated to the Web. Music Education Online has scores of sources for music teachers and other educators. There are lesson plans for all grades and ages, plus a Children’s Music Web Guide. Visit Music Education at Data Dragon and kids can listen to the sounds of various instruments just by clicking a mouse.

All these resources are available from just a few sites. A “Google” search will produce dozens of pages with hundreds of links. This is why some artists, rather than fearing the Internet will harm the fine and performing arts, see it as a remarkable opportunity to popularize art and educate the public. After all, the more people appreciate the arts, the greater their lifetime support and interest will be. For artists, the Internet may represent an investment in the future.

Governments throughout the United States have pledged to bring the Internet and computers to classrooms throughout the nation. Deployment of this technology is a priority for most states. As this promise is fulfilled, teachers may find a way to replace lost resources and reach students who are inspired by the arts. Indeed, they may lead a new “Renaissance” in arts education.

Darby Patterson is Senior Analyst for the Center for Digital Democracy. This article was written exclusively for The Futures Channel by the CDG.

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