The Power of an Art Education

Faculty Guest Blogger: Erin Champion (McMahon)

Erin Champion: Many of you know me from the courses that I have taught here at Marywood, or from my work as a printmaker, but few of you know that I started out as an Art Educator teaching middle school art. I have always been a proponent of the arts as a necessary part of a well-rounded education, and with recent developments in the field of Education this calling has escalated to a loud roar.

Last spring I took on a project called The Uncommon Core as part of a self-expression and leadership course that I was taking in Manhattan. The project focuses on taking the often controversial Common Core Learning Standards, and implementing them in a way that promotes cross-curricular planning among teachers. It allows them to implement these standards in a very uncommon way, making for a well-rounded and meaningful education for students instead of a learning system that often seems compartmentalized and focused on only a few core subjects.

Since 2008, eighty percent of school districts have cut budgets, and often the Arts are the first to go. Coupled with the distinct and limiting focus on developing only a few subject areas, arts programs in the United States are at an all-time low, and in some school districts they do not exist at all.

It is the job of each and every one of us to make sure that future generations get the chance to develop into well rounded and self-expressed individuals.

Why is this detrimental to students? According to the National Endowment for the Arts, students who are involved in the arts are four times more likely to be awarded for academic achievement, and are three times more likely to be recognized for school attendance than students who do not take classes in the arts. The lack of access to the arts has an even more detrimental effect on under-resourced students, making them five times less likely to graduate from high school if they do not take art classes. Furthermore, countries such as Japan, Hungary, and the Netherlands, where the Arts are a mandatory school subject, consistently rank among the highest for math and science scores. If we continue to narrow our focus and eliminate the very programs that contribute to student success, we are creating a future where the dropout rate continues to climb at a staggering rate, and those that do graduate will be less competitive on a global scale.

Ensuring that students have access to a meaningful arts education in kindergarten through their senior year has bearing on each and every one of us in the Department of Visual Arts here at Marywood University. Take a moment to reflect on what brought you here to pursue the arts. Was there an art teacher that made a profound difference in your life? Did you see the arts as a way to express yourself when words failed you? Do you use your art to bring awareness to social and political ideas that matter most to you? What happens if future generations are robbed of their visual literacy?

It is the job of each and every one of us to make sure that future generations get the chance to develop into well rounded and self-expressed individuals. We need to ensure that the Arts are seen as the catalyst for a meaningful education that shows students how all of their subjects are interrelated to each other, as well as to the life that they want to lead. Let’s ensure that there is nothing common about our country’s education system and let’s give students access to an education that leaves them feeling empowered, creative, and alive with self-expression.

If you would like to be a part of this cause please contact me at, or go to to learn more.

—Erin Champion (McMahon)

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