Vedaaranya Heritage Arts and Healing Festival 2016

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Renee Jackson

Concordia University
Department of Education LB-579
1455, de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Montreal, Quebec

Seeing Potential: Why Art Education is Important to Healthy Development

Focusing on the theme “seeing potential”, this paper makes connections between arts education and the healthy development of children and youth in our complex contemporary environment. Theoretical ideas are translated into practical approaches that can be applied directly to curriculum in classroom or community settings. Quality arts education is important for what it does to people, and strategies from this subject area can be combined with other subjects and applied throughout elementary and secondary level curriculum. The process of becoming is a comprehensive model the author has developed to assist with the construction of such curriculum, and it is explained briefly in this paper.

This paper explores the idea that art education can develop capacities that lead away from passivity and towards active engagement with the world. According to Paulo Freire, this is the way to free students from oppression enabling them to live more fully, deeply and critically (Freire, 2008). In an art education setting, children learn that matter can be transformed and used for multiple purposes. Through this act an important type of intelligence or awareness, relevant, if not necessary in our contemporary climate, is exercised. In this paradigm of awareness, children can learn to see beyond the intended purpose of objects and, in theory, can build the capacity to see beyond limitations. This mind-frame can lay the groundwork for hope – not only can objects be transformed but so too can attitudes, situations and people.

After laying down the big-picture theoretical groundwork, this paper brings us more deeply into the practical as it describes and presents images of an art exhibit that is the result of Culture for Kids in the Arts “Artasia: Junk to Art” pilot project out of Hamilton Ontario, Canada. This project combines arts, environmental and literacy education.


Renee Jackson is a PHD candidate in education at Concordia University and a lecturer at McGill University.  She is a visual arts specialist currently leading a city wide “junk to art” movement.  Renee has travelled to six countries doing research for the Center for Research on Culture and Human Development.  She is an executive member of the Canadian Society for Education Through Art, and a recent graduate from a short course in ecosystems approaches to health.