The notions that art is fun, art is play, art is easy, anyone can do it, whatever is done is alright, and an excessively long list of associated attitudes about art are not only damaging to the educational credibility of art as a mainstream subject in the school, but such notions are false without the balancing conception that art means work. The truth is that it is very rewarding to gain competency as an artist, but competency is not achieved without significant effort, all of which might not always be classified as fun.
Everyone can make or do some kind of art at some level, but significant accomplishment is associated with high standards that usually require years of dedicated effort to achieve. Fortunately the path of learning and achieving in art can be exciting and rewarding to travel if the travelers expectations are sufficiently informed to anticipate the necessity and desirability of work (Kieran 2003). As a verb, work means to fashion or create by expending labor or exertion upon something: the potter works the clay; the jeweler works the copper, silver or gold.
Artists work art materials, but also work ideas or concepts, composing and altering until the desired results are achieved. When confronted with technical or expressive problems, artists apply their creative powers to work out solutions. But aside from these dictionary definitions, there is perhaps a more essential connotation for our slogan, art means work. There is something about the essence of art that stands for high quality work, for in the making of art care must be exercised or expanded.
When workers in any occupation or profession perform in such an excellent manner, exhibiting high levels of skill, innovation, or quality, we apply the honorific artist to those persons. John Dewey described a work of art as an object elaborated with every loving care of united thought and emotion. Real art is not produced by uncaring individuals. The art produced by caring novices, children or adults, who apply their skills to the current limits of these capacities for artistic expression, is real art (Kieran 2003).
Rather recently school people have incorporated the term the language of arts into their vocabularies, but they have not always realized the full meaning of the phrase. In considering the language arts, they have usually emphasized the language rather than the arts. A recent educational yearbook on the topic, for example, not only fails to develop the language arts as n integrated group of communication activities but makes practically no mention of the separate divisions of the group as real arts.
The whole point of view in teaching the various fine arts has changed within the last generation, but the new approach has not yet affected the teaching of the language arts as arts. The language arts and the fine arts are closely related fields. One of Websters definitions of art is application of skill and taste to production according to aesthetic principles. The language arts, too, are concerned with various types production, such as speaking, writing, or dramatizing-all involving skills, taste, and aesthetic principles.
In the past the language arts have been regarded as skills necessary for ordinary living, while production in the fine arts has been considered a rare, creative act. Today this distinction is hardly tenable. The modern view is that the child crudely modeling clay, the peasant woman weaving, and the man admiring a steam shovel at work-all may be having art experiences; art is the province of every human being.
Similarly the language arts are now considered as involving not only certain mechanical skills but also certain types of art experiences (Kouwenhoven 1967). A small childs reactions to a well-told story or an older childs fashioning of the written account of a personal adventure may also be true art experiences. It seems worth while, therefore, to enlarge on the idea that the language arts and the fine arts have much in common in themselves and in the types of experience which they can provide for boys and girls.