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To make art is to be human, never in the history of human culture has there been a time when we didn’t make art. Evidence of art making is among the oldest archaeological evidence of human society throughout the world. Cave paintings and ‘Venus’ carvings date back to hominids earlier than homo-sapiens. (Adhikari 2019) With this in mind it could be argued that it is art that makes us human.

In fact, engaging with art has been shown to make us feel more human; research has shown that making visual art significantly reduces the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in people. (Kaimal 2016) As such teaching art in primary school teaches students coping mechanisms and allows them to have better emotional regulation in and out of school and throughout life. The process of making and seeing one’s artwork also gives us a self-confidence boost as our body releases dopamine, the feel-good hormone. (UVic 2019)

As one of the five key Arts disciplines outlined by the Victorian Curriculum for F-6 Visual Arts is considered an essential part of primary school education. In fact, of all the arts disciplines Visual Arts is largely supported in most schools with a dedicated art rooms usually integrated into the school design. “Through engaging in The Arts students are entertained, challenged and provoked to respond to questions and assumptions about individual and community identity, taking into account different histories and cultures. The Arts contributes to the development of confident and creative individuals and enriches Australian society.” (VCAA)

The Mparntwe Education Declaration states that all young Australians are to become confident and creative individuals with excellent critical thinking and problem-solving skills alongside deep intercultural and ethical understandings. Skills that support “imagination, discovery and innovation”. (CAGEC 2019:15) How can this not be read to be calling for the young people of Australia to become a generation of Artists? For all these traits and skills are what happens when young people engage with the Arts.

Problem solving skills are being touted is one of if not the most important skills that young people need to endure the world that is 21st century society and has proven to be one of the crucial skills that has led to the survival of humanity. (Rahman 2018) The Arts provide many opportunities for problem solving as it usually begins with question like; how do I say what I want to say, or make the shape I want to make or turn a lump of clay into a sculpture? This integration of problems allows students to feel more confident with the process of solving a problem and has been found to translate through to day-to-day life. Alongside the more direct skills like decision making and learning through failure that are integral parts of the problem-solving process.

Visual Arts is an incredibly broad arts discipline that allows for a multitude of expressions and experiences. Broadly defined by the curriculum as covering the fields of art, craft and design stating that students create and respond to visual artworks that expression emotions, imaginings and culture, “They recognise the significance of visual arts histories, theories and practices, exploring and responding to artists, craftspeople and designers and their artworks. They apply visual arts knowledge in order to make critical judgments about their own work and that of others. Learning in the Visual Arts helps students to develop understanding of world cultures and their responsibilities as global citizens.” (VCAA)

As an individual that has lived an artistic life my own belief that personal expression through art is a human need and connects to our need to belong. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that without this belonging we can not fulfil our true self actualisation. I believe that it is this that makes art a transformative experience that can change lives. Particularly for those that for a multitude of reasons may not feel they belong, art gives them a space where they do belong, it engages the disengaged, empowers the disempowered and allows everyone to say what they can’t say with words (Flaherty 2016) and sometimes didn’t realise they needed to say.

In the primary school context Visual Art is an essential part of the curriculum as outlined above, yet there remains a constant need for the arts to justify their place in the curriculum, often in regards the budgetary needs of art supplies. It is with this in mind that I have designed a poster to be displayed around a school to remind staff, parents and students why the arts are essential.