Classrooms leave no room for creativity in arts education

Current arts curriculums limit students 

Paige believes students shouldn’t be bound by structure in the arts.

Modern arts education is highly problematic because the focus on theory and structure in arts education has made creativity start to fade in the classroom.

In theatre, music, or musical theatre, I’m always trying to keep my creativity flowing. However, art has a way of being anything but easy when it comes to the historical, systematic, and restrictive criteria for what it means to create something artistic. 

Arts education has been something I struggled with because there’s a fine line between what is creativity and what is structured. Giving students direction as opposed to letting them create what their heart desires is the debate I constantly have when considering my future career in education. 

In university education, we’re often given templates to follow, which can be limiting when we consider all the possibilities students can bring to the table. When students are allowed to let their imaginations run freely, it allows them to have a deeper connection with their work.

Students should have the liberty to create freely because this allows them to find their own creative voice and grow into a unique artistic identity. We must accept our students for all their “artistic flaws” and abilities, because it makes each piece of work their own.

What educators think is a flaw may be a form of self-expression students use to tackle the greatest challenges of life. Providing students with templates or guidelines in art limits the possibilities of what kind of art they want to create and how they want to connect with creativity.

As a creator in university, when I’m told to be artistic and creative in my drama and music courses. I constantly turn to theory and structure at the centre of my work because that’s what I believe is correct, despite there being no right or wrong when it comes to art.

Art is what comes from the heart and our emotions—that’s what makes it art.

It’s been so long since I’ve been allowed to use my own ideas about artistic expression that I don’t know how to get in touch with that part of myself anymore. 

The things I create in my classes aren’t creative in nature, but is rather a by-product of what my professors want to see in their respective medium. 

The curriculum in Arts education in university involves phasing out creativity to let structure control our lives. It tries to define what it means to make art, or define what is and isn’t art.

The whole point of creativity is to produce something that’s new, exciting, and connects with each person individually to tell a unique story.

This becomes an issue when, in my concurrent education classes, I’m told to create lesson plans that are interesting for students. Sparking student interest requires educators to tap into their own creativity when cultivating engaging classroom content.

There are many flaws in the Ontario curriculum for the arts at every medium—whether it’s drama, music, dance, or visual arts. The curriculum tries to actively define and restrict what art is. This becomes a more pressing matter when the curriculum we base our learning from is only Westernized canonical material.

My creativity will not reach every child in my classroom because not every student has the same artistic interests. Making my lessons opportunistic and allowing each student to flourish thus becomes the better end goal.

My idea of teaching isn’t consistent with other teachers, but neither are the abilities nor needs of every student. Letting each student explore art at their own pace and in their own way is how we spark that interest in every student.

Every year, students are expected to learn about the same few composers, artists, and writers across art forms. This cannot be the only definition of art that we provide to our students. 

Shakespeare cannot be the only dramatic writer of tragedy and comedy. Mozart cannot be the only genius of classical music, and Van Gogh cannot be the only master of painting. 

There’s a wide variety of techniques, timbres, and stories students can use to express themselves. Each culture and artist throughout history brings new opportunities to the creative table. Students in turn should have access to each of these voices.

Such a narrow scope of materials limits student imagination the possibilities about what they can create. It tells both children and future educators there’s a right or wrong in academia, which should be open-ended.

The outdated curriculum poses an even greater issue as it further limits the diversity and inclusivity of the art we bring to our students. When there’s limited cultural representation in arts, it leaves no room for representation in our classrooms, too.

Bringing creativity back to students and giving it space in classrooms means we must break from a pedagogy of structure and biased rules of creation in the arts. It means encouraging students to create work regardless of guidelines, teaching young artists to seek approval of their art by asking themselves ‘is it enough?’, and teaching them to create regardless of approval from others.

Let students look at all kinds of art, canonical or not. Diversify the content in curriculums so every student can find something in art that speaks to them and what they call art. 

Art is vast and art is for everyone. 

It’s time to let creativity run free again after years of sitting back while theory and format control our self-expression.Creativity belongs in the classroom, and arts education needs to let it sit with its students. 

Paige is a third-year Concurrent Education student.



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