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7 Reasons Why Art is Important


What do we learn from looking at art? Do we need to learn something by looking at art for it to be a valuable piece?

art supplies in a flat lay with text - why art?

Students, parents, other teachers and administration often struggle to understand what we learn from looking at art. Here are many reasons why looking at art is valuable. Last month while teaching about Renaissance stained glass, I was asked by a 5th grader why we look at art and why we have to learn about it. I had to bite my tongue and give my little speech on why it’s so important, just like music, phys. ed., science and math. But for some people, it’s a valid question.

What do we learn from looking at art? Do we need to learn something by looking at art for it to be a valuable piece?

Sometimes we may not learn tangible or instantly measurable things. But we are learning. Here are 7 reasons why art is important and what we are learning through art:

  • Focus — In our fast-paced media soaked world, we’ve developed short attention spans. By looking, studying and noticing art we’re working on focusing longer than a few seconds.

  • Empathy & Respect — Viewing art helps us understand and recognize the feelings of others. Connecting with other and different cultures allows you to enter a world you may not be comfortable with and you learn how to respect the differences. One study found that a single hour in a museum changed the way people thought and felt.  The subjects of the study exhibited improved critical thinking skills, increased empathy for how people lived in the past, and improved tolerance for people different from themselves.

  • Awareness — Learning how to look and study artwork teaches you how to look for details and things you may not see in a quick glance. This transfers over to the world and helps you be more observant to the world and people around you. It helps us figure out our thoughts and feelings towards things around us.

  • Critical Thinking — Looking at art and interpreting it uses the brain in more complex ways. You have to compare, criticize, evaluate, analyze, and construct meaning.

  • When you look at a new piece of art, your brain starts looking for patterns, shapes, and anything else that is familiar to make you feel more connected to the piece.  Even if you don’t “get” it, your brain is still going to work, trying to find meaning in what you're looking at.

  • Connection — Viewing art in a group setting connects you with those you’re discussing it with. It also connects you to the past, to the artist, the culture and the meaning. Looking at artwork has proven to be a stress reliever and bring out feelings of love. A University of London study showed that when a person looks at a piece of art that they see as beautiful, there is an instantaneous release of dopamine, a chemical that is linked to feelings of love, into the brain. Beyond the brain's skill at making sense of what we're seeing, the brain actually goes through changes when we look at a beautiful art piece. In fact, looking at a gorgeous painting, sculpture, or other artwork increases blood flow to the brain by as much as 10% -- the equivalent of looking at someone you love.

  • Curiosity and Wonder — The world is an amazing place, art is just a reflection of all those wonderful things we’re surrounded by.

Art is valuable. Art is important.

flat lay of art supplies


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