Arts Classes Paint Their Path to Importance for Students


William Hsieh

Donavan Miller practices his passion daily, teaching ceramics and studio art classes. Miller took these classes in high school and hopes to inspire his students the same way he was, Miller said.

Farhad Taraporevala and Tiffany Wu

In an increasingly STEM-centered culture, the arts face the danger of being overshadowed by academic classes. Students in the Western United States have lagged in art class participation, according to a 2016 poll by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 

“California used to lead the nation in arts education,” Create CA Program Director Patricia Wayne said in an interview with EdSource. “But over the last 40 years there’s been an unraveling.”

Despite the state’s decline in arts education, EdSource recognizes Irvine Unified’s diversity in arts programs, which are funded through corporations and donations. Irvine Unified has committed $45 million to students and families, will stretch across the next decade and aid in preserving art classes that might have been cut otherwise.

Throughout the country, art classes have been among the first classes cut from a decrease in funding because arts are not test subjects, according to NPR. 

As a result of their differences, the two areas of study are unequally emphasized, although they are both necessary for individual growth. Portola High offers diverse art classes on campus and a strong arts representation led by passionate teachers and students, emphasizing the importance of refusing to identify as either a STEM or arts student. 

Visual Imagery and Ceramics Teacher Donovan Miller Q&A

What is the most important thing students take away from art?

It gives them a chance to reflect on their own interests and keeps people grounded, and those are the two biggest things. It allows you to be creative and dig in to what’s important to every individual person.

IUSD can be a bit of a STEM-focused district; why do you think it is important that students value art classes equally to all the other classes they are taking?

I think a lot of the other subjects are trying to solve outward problems, and I think art is a good way to investigate and solve internal struggles and try and resolve and improve yourself.

Can you list a way art helped you in life?

Absolutely. Speaking of those internal struggles, I went through some hardships when I was in high school. Both painting and ceramics really helped me to come out of those hard times.

If there was one thing you could say to a student interested in taking an art class, what would that be?

I would say that everyone belongs in an art class and that you shouldn’t be worried about whether you think you could excel or if you had any reservations about being the best, it doesn’t matter at all; everyone can gain something from art, and everybody should try it.

Nicole Patton Q&A

What is the importance of art?

The importance of art, to me, it’s a form of self expression, it’s a form of creativity, and it’s a form of release.

Why do you think it is important that students take an art class in high school?

The art classes are usually fun or relaxing classes, and in [the students’] rigorous structured schedules that everyone has now, the art class is so important because it really is them. It shows them instead of a math class, everyone is doing the same thing, a science class, everyone is doing the same thing, in the art classes, they get to really be themselves.

What do you love most about art?

The confidence that it gives people when they are doing something for themselves and something that shows who they are, it really brings out a different side of everyone.

If there was one thing you could say to a student interested in taking an art class, what would that be?

Do it! You won’t regret it. You will learn new things about yourself that you didn’t know.