Monday, August 31, 2009

Art Smart

Are smart people drawn to the arts or does arts training make people smarter?

The answer isn’t clear. Much has been written in recent years about the Mozart effect – how having small children listen to Mozert raises their IQs
Now a new, on-going study by leading cognitive neuroscientists across the United States is trying to precisely determine the relationship between brain development and participation in music, dance and the visual arts.

According to research led by Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga of the University of California at Santa Barbara, children motivated in the arts develop attention skills and strategies for memory retrieval that also apply to other subject areas.
Although such studies are fascinating I am leary of how such studies are being used to make a case for why their needs to be more arts in the schools or why government should invest in the arts period. Are we as a society saying, unless something produces economic growth or increases the IQ it has no value?

“Not everything has a practical utility, but maybe it’s experientially valuable,” said Elliot Eisner, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University. “Learning through the arts promotes the idea that there is more than one solution to a problem, or more than one answer to a question.”

May I suggest that there are other kinds of values that can not be measured?
One day a mother called to sign her son up for art classes. She told me he was just diagnosed with dyslexia and has been struggling in school but he loves art. She asked if I would tell the drawing teacher about his diagnosis so he can be aware. The next day I talked to my drawing teacher and found out he too was dyslexic. When I called the mother and told her she began to cry. Today this young boy is flourishing into an amazing young artist with new self-esteem that will help him through all of life.

How can one measure that?

Colleen Sgroi is the owner of Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes at 12 Andover Road in Billerica, MA. For more information go to

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