God the Creator has formed us to be worshipers, creators in his image, and stewards of what he has made. He creates universes out of nothing but words! He forms living beings out of dust and calls them good! We create art with lowly paper and paints, clay and scissors. In studying and practicing art, our ultimate goal is to learn better how to glorify Him for and through what we see.
Just as math is a workout for the brain, and music trains the ears, art is a workout for the eyes. Art trains people to see. Studying art opens children’s eyes to the beauty surrounding them. It grants them the opportunity to practice interpreting and appreciating that beauty.
A significant aspect of our yearly benchmarks for mastery in art has to do with exhibiting informed judgment and critical thinking. Not every piece of art is beautiful or skillful, nor is a subjective “I don’t like it” a sufficient explanation of a piece of art’s objective value. We train and expect students to apply communication, presentation, and exhibition skills. We train and expect them to demonstrate correct viewing behavior and look and listen attentively, which we begin teaching even in Kindergarten when we practice “museum etiquette” while looking at pieces in our school hallway. We expect older students to gain visual literacy as they begin to interpret famous artwork, to practice practical critiques of their own work for improvement, to identify how art reflects culture, and to explain their preferences for artwork with reference to artists’ choices of design elements.
At Cedar Classical Academy, we teach art twice a week in Grammar and Logic School (Grades 1-7). In art class, students spend about half of their time “arting,” a quarter of their time learning and studying technique, and a quarter of their time learning about art history. In our 2019-2020 academic year, we studied art through the work of artists such as Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Alexander Calder (1898-1976), Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Michelangelo (1475-1564), and Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). In the 1-2 class, we studied concepts concerning early American art, which complemented their study of American History. In the 3-6 class, we studied concepts concerning ancient art as they studied Ancient History through the Fall of Rome. Students completed projects in watercolor both inside and en plein air, pen techniques including hatching, crosshatching, and pointillism, papier-mâché, acrylic painting, paper cutting, quilting, still life, contour line drawing, sculpture, charcoal, wire, mosaic, woodworking, and portraiture. We have also learned the terms of the Elements of Art and practiced using them in analyzing different famous pieces of art.
This amount of time – twice a week – is frankly not quite enough, since experiencing and learning art multiple times a week truly teaches children the importance of art and encourages them to love creativity. Practicing more often also improves skills, just like in any other discipline. For these reasons, each class has additional times during the morning to copy masterworks at their desks in their homeroom. Students copy a masterwork from each artist that we study. This provides the extra practice we desire for our students, and it gives their minds and bodies a break from the attention required in morning Theology, Latin, and Math classes, which we schedule as the first periods of the day. And again, it trains them to see.
At the end of each semester, students participate in an art show to display their class projects. Here we can celebrate the beauty of our creations, and let that lead us to praising and celebrating the one who has created all things.
Mrs. Kyria Beals is a graduate from Spring Arbor University and a Cedar Classical Academy founding teacher. She will be teaching Art in Grades 1-7 in our 2020-2021 academic year.