Arts Education / Inspiration / Philadelphia / Process


an-artist-education-HeaderA good creative arts education is essential for learning and the process of making art is an emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, and physically complicated one.  All levels of art education emphasize the value of individual creative exploration, critical thinking and use of imagination.  Aesthetic development begins as soon a the child makes a mark; beauty and meaning are stored within the mark. Parents and teachers need to be careful not to impose conformity over development of divergent thinking and belief in imagination.


Children painting at the New Children’s Museum San Diego

Making art provides opportunities for new discoveries and increases our desire to explore; we ask ourselves questions and try to find answers.  A good creative arts education can mean the difference between a creative flexible person and one who is not.

I grew up in Philadelphia and attended public school.  The city has an extraordinary number of public sculptures and murals but, my elementary school art education was sadly underwhelming – we sat unshifting at our individual desks and copied mimeographed things.  I earned “C”‘s in art.  My experience as an art minor at the illustrious Philadelphia High School for Girls in the late 1960’s was not much different.  Once again, the quality of my art education felt constricted and I worried that my love for painting would go unrecognized and painfully under nurtured by my teachers. How could I tap into my creative potential and make my nascent voice heard?

It took years, but with the guidance of some very thoughtful artist/teachers I learned that I did not have to copy nature, that I could paint from retinal impressions.  I learned that deep seeing has no limit.  It took decades to liberate aesthetically from familial and institutional expectations.  This working philosophy seeps into my studio practices and classroom.

ilenes-work.jpgI read that Robert Henri saw difference in work that manifested education and those which manifested love.  My paintings flow, fracture, and radiate love of color. Henri said, “No matter how good the schools, your education is in your own hands.”  “All education is self-education.”

Be fearless and know how to be influenced.

Ilene Spiewak

Ilene Spiewak has her B.A. from the Pennsylvania State University and her M.A. in Art Therapy from Hahnemann University Hospital. In the past she has presented on arts education with other artists, teachers, and curators at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ (MCLA) in a show titled, “Inside the Outside: Reconsidering Our Views about Art.”

Read more about Ilene on our Contributors Page

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