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Visual Arts Education in New York City Public Schools: Factors & Evidence


While some of the studies used for this LibGuide focus on all forms of artistic expression in education, this LibGuide focuses only on the VISUAL ARTS.


  • 2000s legislation policies such as "No Child Left Behind," led to urban schools focusing on math and reading assessment
  • The trend in 2012-2013, towards smaller schools correlates with less specialized programs and resources. So even though the educational needs of the children are better served, the school lacks the funding and support. NYTimes Article, "In New York Schools, the Sound of Music is Muted"
  • This article found in ChalkBeat breaks down the issues with the "Fair Student Funding". This weighted system is supposed to provide aid to schools with kids that are at risk, however, it seems to turn an already nuanced issue into more of a spider web. ChalkBeat Blog
  • Designed to give principles more power and autonomy, but in reality back-fires.
  • Last year only 23% of schools received the funding they were entitled to (Disare, 2018).

“The battle for the human spirit will be fought and won in art rooms of the nation’s schools and in the artists’ studios, but only if the creative arts become a major part of every child’s education and if the artist asserts his significant and historical role as the people’s advocate.”

Buckminster Fuller

A place to start...

  • A 2010 study, Arts Education Makes a Difference in Missouri Schools, found a correlation in participation in arts education with higher attendance, fewer disciplinary infractions and overall academic success 
  • Several studies show that high-schoolers are more likely to graduate and attend college when exposed to arts. (Bloch & Taylor, 2018). 
  • Visual arts, music and theatre can promote tolerance and compassion. 
  • Additionally, through such programs, students are exposed to different ways to learn. And these differences are celebrated. 
  • An inspiring article found via Illionois npr"It's a really good lesson for those kids in ideas about freedom of expression. And if they should run into questions of censorship or controversy, that's also a really good lesson in freedom of expression."

Academic Articles & Studies

"Art in Action" TENETS

  1. Creativity: In a word full of trained professionals and highly educated workers, creativity is one of the top skills that set someone apart from the pack. Of course, being qualified in your field is important, but having the ability to think imaginatively and bring fresh ideas to the table are essential to innovation and progress. Art education allows students to express themselves and think outside of the box.
  2. Collaboration: Working together for a common purpose teaches children that their contribution is important, which is perfect for the collaborative nature of the arts. By working collaboratively on a project, students learn to communicate more effectively, compromise when necessary, and work hard even if their role may seem small. All of these skills are vital in any work environment where teams come together for a common goal.
  3. Confidence: The arts create a safe space for students to explore their talents and build their confidence. Students who are shy in a normal classroom setting may gain the assurance to stand up and talk about their artwork. The sense of pride gained through a finished product encourages the students to keep trying and striving to accomplish more. With this confidence, they are more likely to take risks and step out of their comfort zone to try new things in other areas of their lives.
  4. Cultural Awareness & Empathy: The arts provide a unique platform to discuss many different cultures, socioeconomic levels, and current events. Through the arts, students have a place not only to learn about different cultures than their own, but also to ask questions and be more informed about the daily struggles and realities of people who may seem different. By learning about other people, children are able to develop their ability for empathy, essential in working with people from all walks of life, and realize that we have more in common than not.
  5. Critical Thinking: When students are making a work of art, the process includes conceptual and interpretational thinking that helps build their critical thinking skills including observation, reasoning, and problem-solving. During the creative process, children use logic and problem solving to strategize how to reach their intended outcome. Critical thinking skills are also in play when observing and analyzing famous works. This ability to think critically to solve problems in a unique way is key to the 21st century workplace.

A Call to Action

"These findings provide strong evidence that arts educational experiences can produce significant positive impacts on academic and social development. Because schools play a pivotal role in cultivating the next generation of citizens and leaders, it is imperative that we reflect on the fundamental purpose of a well-rounded education. This mission is critical in a time of heightened intolerance and pressing threats to our core democratic values." Article found here