Art Teachers of the World . . .

Veronica Royal teaches iconography at her parish and home, promoting an ancient craft and infusing students with a sense of sacred art. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Outside of theology teachers, I think few of my colleagues have more difficulty getting students to appreciate the value of their subject than those who teach art. A core group of students tend to love art, but many (if not most) find art too subjective, too abstract, and not sufficiently practical. 

I hope, then, that this news from the Wall Street Journal will be of some encouragement to art educators as they evangelize their craft:

Advertisement
Viewing paintings engages a number of different regions of the brain, suggesting art appreciation is a natural biological process, according to the report in the June issue of the journal Brain and Cognition. The study found that paintings activated areas of the brain involved in vision, pleasure, memory, recognition and emotions, in addition to systems that underlie the conscious processing of new information to give it meaning.
 

In the words of WSJ, the "human brain is built for art appreciation . . ."

The way this report describes it, it seems that the brain exists, in part, for art; for the appreciation of the beautiful. I am speculating here, but I wonder if the structures of the brain themselves evolved in response to the existence of the beautiful in nature.

Putting aside that question, I wonder: If our brains are built for art appreciation, why do so many find the subject so uninteresting? And how would the culture be different if we emphasized art as much as we do math?

And as I think about those questions, I think of others: Do all paintings activate the brain similarly? For example, does a piece from Salvador Dali elicit something different in the brain than something from Norman Rockwell?

Can any readers provide insight?

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Marie Rehbein
4 years 4 months ago
Art appreciation is not exactly the same thing as art class. It seems that students might not like sitting a classroom memorizing things about someone else's art in order to be tested on that knowledge. Furthermore, unless they are skilled, they might not appreciate someone evaluating their art for a grade. Art instruction is poorly done in a lot of places where the "art teacher" is not actually able to do any art, but fills a gap in the faculty by teaching this "easy" subject in order to earn more pay.

Advertisement

The latest from america

 10.17.2018 Pope Francis greets Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago before a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 16. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
“We take people where they are, walking with them, moving forward,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 20, 2018
Catherine Pakaluk, who currently teaches at the Catholic University of America and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, describes her tweet to Mr. Macron as “spirited” and “playful.”
Emma Winters October 19, 2018
A new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security could make it much more difficult for legal immigrants to get green cards in the United States. But even before its implementation, the proposal has led immigrants to avoid receiving public benefits.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 19, 2018
 Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, then nuncio to the United States, and then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, are seen in a combination photo during the beatification Mass of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4, 2014. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
In this third letter Archbishop Viganò no longer insists, as he did so forcefully in his first letter, that the restrictions that he claimed Benedict XVI had imposed on Archbishop McCarrick—one he alleges that Pope Francis later lifted—can be understood as “sanctions.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 19, 2018