Essential Questions in Art


• What is art?
• Who is an artist?
• How does art expand and enhance our thinking?
• How does art record and communicate the human experience?
• How does art represent personal expression, exploration, and/or insight?
• How does art help us learn about other people?
• What can we learn about a culture through its art forms?
• How does art reflect human culture?
• Do the arts reflect or shape culture?
• How does art influence what we can learn about ourselves and about our society?
• How is art used everyday life?
• In what ways are everyday sites and sounds rooted in the arts?
• How do artists benefit society?
• Why is art necessary?
• How can I use my artistic talents to benefit my community, state, country, world?
• How do people express themselves through art today?
• How will technology change the way images are constructed and interpreted?
• What role does graphic design play in consumers' choices?
• What will art be like 10, 20, 30 years from now?
• What inspires me?
• What sparks the creative process?
• How do we use materials to make an artistic statement?
• How do artists choose tools, techniques, and material to express their ideas?
• What skills and vocabulary do I need to appreciate visual art?
• How do I use my knowledge of art skills & vocabulary to create art?
• What ethical issues are involved in the creative practices of the visual and performing arts, and how can they be understood in relation to universal concepts of human rights?
• Which appropriate information resources and technologies help us to understand the broad humanistic influences of the arts, and to facilitate integration of visual art, dance, theater and music with essential skills in other subject areas?
• How are visual and performing art skills used to help us adapt to an ever-changing technological world, and to construct suitable creative expressions of this world in visual art, dance, theater and music?
• How can central visual and performing arts concepts and skills, such as artistic rendering of cultural values, principles of organization, collaboration and design, sense awareness, intuitive understanding and creative thinking be applied to solve problems in local, national and global communities?
• What is the role of the visual and performing arts in developing interdisciplinary projects that investigate relevant issues in local, national and global communities?

"Essential Questions." Greenville County Schools. Web. 19 Feb. 2009. http://www.greenville.k12.sc.us/index.asp.

"Art Essential Questions." Miss Valenti's Art Room. Web. 19 Feb. 2009. http://teachers.saschina.org/cvalenti/art-essential-questions/.

"Essential Questions." Hannibal Central School. Web. 19 Feb. 2009. http://www.hannibalcsd.org.

"Subject Areas Essential Questions." Web. 03 Oct 2005. Sonoma State University.



IL STATE GOAL 25: Know the language of the arts.
Why This Goal Is Important: Through observation, discussion, interpretation and analysis, students learn the “language” of the arts. They learn to understand how others express ideas in dance, drama, music and visual art forms. In addition to acquiring knowledge essential to performance and production, students become arts consumers (e.g., attending live performances or movies, purchasing paintings or jewelry, or visiting museums) who understand the basic elements and principles underlying artworks and are able to critique them.

IL STATE GOAL 26: Through creating and performing, understand how works of art are produced.
Why This Goal Is Important: Students acquire skills to produce and perform dance, drama, music and visual art. They learn to use media, tools and technologies. They learn to shape ideas and emotions into sounds, images and actions. As students create and perform their own artworks and review the works of others, they become more imaginative, strengthen their problem-solving skills and learn to respond to the creativity of others. Creating and performing are at the core of the fine arts. Students also learn about the role of the artist (e.g., dancer, painter, actor, director, scriptwriter, musician).

IL STATE GOAL 27: Understand the role of the arts in civilizations, past and present.
Why This Goal Is Important: The arts are a record of civilizations, past and present. Artists are influenced by—and influence—the times and places in which they live and work. As students learn through the arts about people and civilizations, they learn about others and themselves. Also, students learn about careers related to this goal (e.g., animator, curator, art historian, sound technician).

The New Illinois Learning Standards for English Language Arts Incorporating the Common Core (PDF)


The New Illinois Learning Standards for Mathematics Incorporating the Common Core (PDF)


1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10. The arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA.

“Arts education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate, the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence.”
– Joseph M. Calahan, Director of Corporate Communications, Xerox Corporation

“GE hires a lot of engineers. We want young people who can do more than add up a string of numbers and write a coherent sentence. They must be able to solve problems, communicate ideas and be sensitive to the world around them. Participation in the arts is one of the best ways to develop these abilities.”
– Clifford V. Smith, President of the General Electric Foundation

Young people who consistently participate in comprehensive, sequential, and rigorous arts programs are:
  • 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.
  • 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools.
  • 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair.
  • 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance.
  • 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem.
Source: Americans for the Arts (www.artsusa.org).

The arts provide students with:
  • different ways to process information and express their knowledge.
  • the ability to think creatively in areas like math and science.
  • the ability to be independent and collaboration skills.
(source: Young Audiences, Inc. www.youngaudiences.org)

The arts:
  • teach students to make good judgments about qualitative relationships.
  • celebrate multiple perspectives - showing students that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.




  • make it clear that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.




  • help students learn to say what cannot be said. They must learn to reach into their poetic capacities to find the words to describe how the work of art makes them feel.



(source: National Art Education Association website - www.naea-reston.org/tenlessons.html From Elliot Eisner's book: The Arts and the Creation of Mind The Skills Connection Between the Arts and 21st-Century Learning By Bruce D. Taylor
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