School Art Programs: Set the stage for students’ success
The trend in many schools these days is to cut back on electives like art and music, focusing instead on programs like science and math. But as one Ottawa all-girls private school has discovered, investing in high-quality arts programs has a profound impact on students’ success in any field.
Elmwood School is known for the strength of its STEM program, with half of the school’s girls choosing to specialize in science, technology, engineering or math programs after graduation. Yet both teachers and students say the school’s arts program is a key factor in students’ success.
Visual art teacher Heawon Chun said visual literacy, as well as skills like creativity, collaboration, confidence, empathy and critical thinking, are increasingly vital skills for students, regardless of the career or life path they choose.
“A lot of students in the art program don't go into the arts. Although they may go into other areas like science, they say one of the things that sets them apart is their creative problem-solving ability, which helps in other areas of learning,” Chun said. “They credit their art experience to help them get to the top of their class in university.”
After the unveiling of the newly renovated science lab this spring, Elmwood quickly identified the renovation of the school’s visual art studio as the next major project to tackle. Some project details are still being finalized, but renovations are set to begin this summer.
Chun said the renovation of the art room will allow Elmwood to offer girls a bigger and brighter space that will allow the necessary room to work on larger-scale installations, work with new materials such as concrete, and explore art through technology with tools like a gallery-sized projector that can be used to show student-made short films.
At Elmwood, all students take art, music and theatre classes in middle school, and specialize in one of the three disciplines starting in grade nine. Chun said younger students are coached to focus on building confidence, experimenting with new techniques and expressing creativity. As they gain skill and experience, the girls are then encouraged to produce more challenging and conceptual work.
Students learn both traditional art forms, such as drawing and painting, but also work in contemporary media, including installations, photography, video, and performance art. Some assignments even integrate popular social media tools such as Instagram. Guest artists are also often invited to lead activities in class, Chun said, offering both mentorship and inspiration.