Skills Learned in the Arts

  • There are a lot of stereotypes about art and artists that just aren’t so. One is that art requires only talent and can’t be learned. Or that art is a solitary endeavor. Or art only deals with emotions and not with logic. As with all stereotypes, it just ain’t so!


    The Arts (all of them) teach not only specific skills and techniques wedded to each medium and discipline, they teach 10 skills highly necessary for future career success. These are:


    • Creativity—Being able to think on your feet, to think both outside and inside the box to create a better box, and to look at something from a different angle or viewpoint are all parts of creativity. Amazon has many titles in business about how to foster and value creativity in the workplace because this is a skill where most business leaders are indicating a huge need.


    • Confidence—Overcoming the nerves of performing, having your work viewed by an audience, and knowing how to command appropriate attention are huge builders of confidence. While it is tempting to stay within a comfort zone of old patterns, taking the step by step smaller risks of rehearsal, making a prototype, or working through a series earn the artist higher self-esteem and with it more confidence.


    • Problem-Solving—Every artist makes hundreds of decisions to create any work of art. Some decisions may be working through a process to make a personal vision visible to other people and some may be the logistical ones of how to make something stay stuck together or stand up.  This almost constant process of recognizing a “problem,” devising multiple solutions, and then implementation of a chosen one is inherent to the arts. It is so integral that problem–solving skills seamlessly transfer into other areas of life and work.


    • Perseverance—The great iconic works of art all are the products of endless practice and multiple attempts. They serve as inspiration for what is possible whenever we try to learn something new. Since the 21st century workplace requires the constant acquisition of new skills, perseverance is essential to success.


    • Focus—The arts are about both detail and big picture—each brushstroke contributes to the painting just as every voice in a choir is necessary for the richness of song. But without the end vision of the final product, the small details can easily become chaotic clutter. Learning to pay attention to what is both seen and felt, and how to contribute, are all valuable life and workplace skills. The end goal and the steps to get there are both of value.


    • Non-Verbal Communication—The arts tap into emotion and assist in learning to be empathetic and respectful of other people. Being able to read a situation both in what is physically expressed as well as said allows for a more complete understanding of the message.


    • Receiving Constructive Feedback—Critique is a regular part of every art class. Not to be confused with criticism, the purpose of critique is to build toward improvement.  Most artists internally critique their own work in process, adjust as they go, and do a final evaluation to improve the next work. Critique is an art form unto itself with the goal of constant improvement in both message and technique.


    • Collaboration—Most artists have a conscious constant awareness of the audience they are attempting to reach. The seemingly solitary nature of some art forms are accompanied by this awareness and by other artists critiquing the work. In many art forms, notably theatre and music, there are entire groups of people involved in the production of a single work.


    • Dedication—In many ways, this is something that the arts and sports have in common. Sticking to something and consistent practice yields powerful results!


    • Accountability—Learning that mistakes happen, are acknowledged, corrected, and then learned from, are realistic life skills. Functioning as part of a team and realizing that everyone relies on each other is equally important.



    This was picked up by the Washington Post:


    Dr. Elliot Eisner

    In addition, Dr. Elliot Eisner of Stanford, through both writing and lectures, championed 10 Lessons the Arts Teach. 


    • Reliance on good judgment rather than absolute rules
    • There is more than one solution or answer to a problem
    • Multiple perspectives assist in understanding
    • Changes require new approaches
    • Our knowledge surpasses the limits of words and numbers but can be expressed through the arts
    • Small differences can have a large effect. The arts are subtle.
    • Vision and imagination can be made real
    • Learning to express what is not easily said with words or numbers
    • Experiencing things that we can discover and understand in no other way
    • The place of arts shows what society believes is important


    These are summed up here in concise pdf format:


    The full text of a speech he gave at Stanford in 2002 can be found here:


    He can be found on YouTube via a simple search of his name.


    Among his books are:

    The Arts and Creation of Mind, 2002

    The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs, 2001

    The Kind of Schools We Need. 1998

    The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice, reissued 2017

    Cognition and Curriculum Reconsidered, 2017

    Arts Based Research (with Tom Barone), 2011

    Handbook of Research and Policy in Arts Education (with Michael Day), 2004

    Educating Artistic Vision, 1972

    Think With Me About Creativity: 10 essays on creativity, 1964

Art Skills
Last Modified on May 17, 2017