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Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ~Pablo Picasso

Thoughts for the Teaching Artist is devoted to an ongoing exploration of the role of the arts in education. I believe that the arts are an integral, essential part of every person's education. Arts education develops 21st Century Learning Skills, supports all core subjects, creates empathy & builds bridges, and helps develop voice & vision.

The views expressed in Thoughts for the Teaching Artist are mine alone and do not represent the views of my employer or any other persons or organization.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Perfect vs. The Good

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.- Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

As artists, many of us have devoted a considerable amount of our lives to the pursuit of the perfect.  One more brushstroke, one more run-through, one more edit, one more "I'll give you four for nothing, ah five-six-seven-eight!"  Yet if we are honest, perfection has always remained out of reach.  It is easy to look at a classic work of art, and see perfection.  But chances are, Da Vinci probably had some second thoughts about the Mona Lisa.

As Teaching Artists,  we not only have to fight our own unmet needs for perfection, but we also need to stop expecting it from our students.  This doesn't mean we should not have high expectations for our students.  In fact, we do our students a disservice by failing to believe they are capable of producing high quality work.  But we should be careful to always emphasize the process over the product.  The acquisition of skills and discovery of process will last longer than any final project.  This becomes an especially important balancing act in a school environment where regular assessments are the order of the day.  Meaningful assessments in arts education should always be based upon individual student growth and measurable skill acquisition, never upon that mysterious thing we call "talent."

At some point, the student must take ownership of his own work.  No matter the level of skill or sophistication, real artistic growth occurs when the student realizes that ultimately, his own art belongs only to him.  This individuation of the student artist from the Teaching Artist only occurs when the the teacher steps back, gives his final critique and lets the student claim the work as his own.


  1. I may go so far as to say that the process, not the product, is the mark of a true artist.

    It is wonderful when we can look at our work as artists and say 'that is lovely, now how can I make it better'. This is when I am most pleased with my work. I can enjoy it and I am excited about future possibilities. My goal is teach my children to do this in all aspects of life.

  2. You're so right. It is only when an artist takes ownership of his art that he or she gains benefits the most. The key to this ownership is for an artist to discover and control a creative process that works best for that artist. Ownership of the process leads to ownership of the results.