Exploring the Relevance of Art Therapy in Public Education


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Exploring the Relevance of Art Therapy in Public Education is a well researched Education Master’s Thesis topic for final year students and undergraduates, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.


The concept of art therapy used as a benefit for children and adults across the United States is a topic growing in popularity. Coloring books intended for all age groups line bookstore shelves while apps that mimic the genre are available for phones and tablets.

Many mainstream television programs are incorporating art therapy themes into their storylines. In actuality, art therapy is not fully understood and the concept of art therapy and the association with art education is underexplored as an asset within public education.

As noted by Appleton (2001), “The decline of art-making in our schools reflects the public’s suspicions about the relevance of art” (Sarason in Appleton, 2001, p.7). The subject of Art is rarely given a second thought and is often considered expendable when districts are faced with budget issues.

The importance is minimized as the subject is rarely the focus of performance testing and assignments generally subjective in nature. The resultant is decreased interest in Art Education as legislators, parents, and students lose interest in the subject.

The use of art therapy techniques in public education may provide a significant positive impact on all stakeholders.

Art as a Form of Communication

As defined by Malchiodi (2003), “Art therapy is based on the idea that the creative process of art-making is healing and life-enhancing and is a form of nonverbal communication of thoughts and feelings” (Malchodi, 1996, p.1).

Inarguably, art maintains a similar definition. Art has been used by societies, civilizations, and individuals as a form of communication.

Examples have been traced throughout history with varying civilizations. As referenced by Naumberg (1955), “Art as symbolic speech has played a major role in both the conscious and unconscious cultural expression of man throughout the ages” (p.435).

Some examples of art as a form of communication can be referenced throughout portions of history. Some of the earliest known forms of art being used as a form of communication or documentation were cave art or cave paintings.

The earliest human beings on earth documented what they saw outside caves on the walls within. These Paleolithic drawings are considered a powerful statement of art used as communication.

Inhabitants of that civilization are thought to understand only visual depictions of the world around them. The idea of art as a tool for communication can be continued with the Egyptian civilization. The Egyptians were well known for incorporating art into their culture.

Pictorial images known as hieroglyphs served as their written language. They used art to represent their religious beliefs, with depictions of gods and goddesses. They used art to ease the grief of the burial process with tombs adorned with artistic renderings and artifacts honoring the

Artistic expression allowed civilization to survive the dark ages with an epic revival led by the Renaissance masters.

While Europe enjoyed the rebirth of the humanities, Native Americans developed their own culture of artistic communication. Art was used to creating ceremonial or formal attire which often consisted of feathered headdresses, ribbons, beads, patchwork, and embroidered designs. Native Americans also used art to create totem poles to represent the symbolism of their families, clans, and beliefs.

These totem poles would be large sculptures carved from a tree. The images carved into the tree would be an animal, creature, or human figure. These images or figures would be colored differently and decorated in a different manner.

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