Anne Belov on the indisputable and long-lasting value of art in schools

Posted in Blogs, Visual Art

ANNE BELOV, March 8, 2013

“It’s All in How We See It”

"In the Kitchen" is a monoprint on paper by Anne Belov. (Photo courtesy of  the artist)

“In the Kitchen” is a monoprint on paper by Anne Belov. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

I’ve been hearing dismaying news about the discontinuation of music and art programs in public schools.  I know, I know, shrinking tax base, lack of funds, yadda, yadda, yadda. This is a disturbing trend for so many reasons, and I’m not just talking about loss of arts/music teaching jobs, although that is distressing, as well.

When I think back to how I got started making art, I think about my elementary school art teacher, Mr. Cook. He really encouraged me, and in fact, recommended me for some free classes at the Carnegie Art Museum in Pittsburgh, Pa.  Ok, so maybe you are thinking, “Well there were some free art classes available, what’s the big deal if there was no art class in your public school?”  The big deal is that those classes wouldn’t have been available to me without the endorsement of my grade school art teacher. Without art teachers sending their students to the programs, the programs go away.

Believe it or not, I was painfully shy as a child, and making pictures and having time in a class where it was okay to draw (as opposed to being reprimanded for drawing where and when I wasn’t supposed to) made a huge difference to me, and I bet it does for many other children, as well. In addition to the emotional benefits that I experienced, there have been studies that show that learning to think visually can expand our capacity to solve all kinds of problems, not just visual ones.  It enhances critical, decision-making processes. Pretty good return for making a turkey by tracing around your hand and coloring in the feathers, huh?

Have you ever noticed all the visual stuff around you; the colors in your house, the design of your couch, the label on your breakfast cereal? Ever wonder why watching one movie fills you with dread, and another one gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling just from watching the opening credits? Or why you are attracted to one book cover over another? Someone designed those things. Most likely, someone who made a turkey by tracing around their hand in art class in third grade.  Someone’s mom put that drawing up on the refrigerator when they brought it home from school.  Someone developed pride in their own accomplishments and started noticing the visual world around them.

Yes, going to art school and getting further training may have taught me why one thing is more visually appealing than another, but even to the “untrained” eye, the visuals affect how you perceive something. You can put aside the “educating the next generation of art buyers” debate, but there is still the issue of how even a little bit of awareness of things visual can enhance our enjoyment of life.

Here’s looking at you!


Belov gives a fellow island Kickstarter shout out to the Cook on Clay kiln builders:

For those of you who are followers of Kickstarter, and of all things local, I’d like to give a shout out about a project that is funding now, and has a March 21 deadline. Cook on Clay, as a unique entity, has only been in existence for just over two years, but the combined experience of the artists who make these beautiful pots spans more than half a century. You might think that a casserole made in an old stained Pyrex dish would be just as tasty as one made in a Cook on Clay pot, but I would argue that feeding the eyes is just as important as feeding your hunger.  I hope you’ll check out their project and consider supporting it.

Belov became obsessed with Kickstarter after her first successful project, which raised funds to help pay for an egg tempera painting class in Italy last summer. Her second project, also successful, was to publish the first collection of her cartoons, “The Panda Chronicles Book 1: Your Brain on Pandas.”  She has written articles about Kickstarter for Funds For Writers, New York Artists Online Blog  and for Whidbey Life Magazine.


Anne Belov paints, writes, makes prints, and is the founder of The Institute for Contemporary Panda Satire. You can find her paintings at the Rob Schouten Gallery, her cartoons on The Panda Chronicles, and her new book here. She will be teaching beginning egg tempera at the Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio in April. For more information: contact WIFAS.  Find her regularly at Thank Blog It’s Friday here at WLM.

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