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Essay about History of American Art Education

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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...


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...ent of art education in America. Especially because the United States is comparatively a young nation, it is crucial that we examine our practices and what influenced the development of these practices. Through the work of scholars such as Efland and Smith, it becomes increasingly clear, that the path of art education through America’s past is complex and evolving. Most importantly, it is through their research that we come to understand that the current state of art education, including its strengths and its flaws, can be traced to the events of the past that shaped it.


Works Cited

Efland, A. (1990). A history of art education: Intellectual and social currents in teaching the visual arts. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Smith, P. (1996). The history of american art education: Learning about art in American schools. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.


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