Friday, December 12, 2008

Arts Approaches, Elements, and Principles Widely Relevant

For the past couple of years, I've been working with visual arts and music educators on innovative standards-based units that are organized around essential questions. Of the projects I have done with the arts education community, this one was by far the most content focused. Therefore, my professional learning for the project included considerable time learning and thinking about approaches to art and the arts elements and principles.

The ways of approaching art are art-making, art history, criticism, and aesthetics. (State standards and other writings vary in the terms they use for these four areas.) The standards I have reviewed encompass all four of these areas and people who advocate for comprehensive arts education say that students need instruction in all four areas in order to be competent in the arts. Arts elements can be defined as the components or "ingredients" that go together to create works of art. Arts principles (sometimes called "design principles" or "composition principles") can be defined as ways of applying the elements to achieve desired effects. (Some examples of elements are line and color in visual arts and melody and harmony in music. Variety and repetition are examples of principles in both music and visual art, as well as in dance.)

I was thinking about how all these basics in the arts are powerfully connected to all disciplines. Why are the arts so often at the periphery of the curriculum? What if we explored these connections?

I am going to start a new feature based on this thought called "Arts Education Connections." Every Sunday, I will write a post about how a particular element, principle, or art approach might connect to other academic areas.

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