Western culture had many important effects on the United States as a developing nation, and art education was no exception to this. In order to come to terms with the impact of Western culture on American art education, it is important to chronicle the progression of art education throughout Europe. Spanning centuries, the political, social, and economic development of European nations, each played an important role the philosophies of art education, which in the long run, affected American ideas concerning the subject.
Thoughts about art changed and evolved in many ways over time. Efland’s The History of Art Education: Intellectual and Social Currents in Teaching the Visual Arts offers a concise history of art education, chronicling its changes and evolutions. In chapters two and three, Efland begins with attitudes towards art in the Hellenistic time period and moves forward through the Roman Empire, Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Industrial Revolution. According to Efland, during the Hellenistic time period, owning artwork related to status, to a degree, yet the artist was not considered to be an esteemed profession. The primary role of Roman education was to prepare individuals to work for the state. As a result, visual art did not play a role in formal educational practice. Moving forward in time to the Middle Ages, life revolved around faith. While art did play a role in the lives of the people, it was in the form of craft guilds. The apprentice system became more prevalent during this time period as well. It was not until the Renaissance that craft and art became separate entities. Although fine art was stressed more in the educational setting, and students were taught formal skills during this time period, it also marked the Age of Reason. This is significant in the fact that scientific investigation became the priority, pushing visual art to the back burner once again. The role that art did play involved one that catered towards the state. Art was used as political propaganda in that it was thought that art should serve the state, and emphasize the power of the state.
These events indirectly shaped beliefs about art in the United States, as it was a new nation that was raised on strong European influences. Throughout the history of art education, there is a common thread of political relation. The attitudes concerning art related directly to the political and economic happenings at the time. This remained a constant with early American settlers as well. For example, Puritans’ lives revolved around faith and farming, therefore visual art played a role that was not necessary integral. The arts involved a broad term that included crafts that were taught at home. The main goal of education was to teach students to read so that they could read scriptures.
Art education today has veered quite a bit from this mentality. Art is still considered a specialized area, but even more so than in times prior to the...