The benefits of studying art

by Anita Naik

With research showing studying art can help with critical thinking, well-being and improving health and happiness, there's no better time for students and adults to consider taking up art.

A landmark research project commissioned by the TATE, Arts Council England, and undertaken by the University of Nottingham, outlined the overwhelmingly positive benefits of arts and cultural education. The project gathered responses from 6000 people and found arts learning tapped into their imagination, critical thinking abilities and creative instincts in a way that other lessons did not.

The benefit of art classes on academic outcomes

Results from the Joint Council for Qualifications and Ofqual show that between 2010 to 2020 in England there was a decline of -37% in the number of arts* GCSE entries,. Yet there are numerous studies on children and young people that show how studying art can positively impact academic social, and emotional outcomes.

Not only can art improve cognitive functions such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and spatial reasoning, but it also improves areas of the brain which help pupils manage stress.

Education experts who've examined the link between art experience and improved critical thinking cite several factors, including the fact that art education teaches students to observe the world more closely.

This observation and study process helps students to more closely analyse the world around them, skills that make up the foundation of critical thinking.

James Catterall, a leading professor at UCLA Graduate School of Education, who has studied 12,000 students taking art agrees. He found that involvement in the arts was associated with higher levels of attainment possibly down to the fact that art enhances fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, lateral thinking, and complex analysis.

The benefits of art classes for adults

A recent study published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association also found that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress regardless of artistic experience or talent in adults.

What's more, if you work in a highly analytical environment, then an art class is an excellent way to give your brain's right side a rest and stretch the left side.

Another valuable part of taking any art class is the improvement in cognitive functions that decline with age, such as spatial navigation, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Finally, if you want to improve your well-being a University of London study found that engagement in art, culture and community positively impacts your health. Moreover, those participating in arts activities more than once a week experienced a greater life satisfaction and lower levels of mental distress.

How to take up art

If the above has inspired you to take up art as an adult or a student help yourself by:

1. Take up drawing, painting, pottery, and crafts with a trained art tutor.

2. Visit art exhibitions and galleries. Learn more about the art world, especially art history, via pieces of art you love and admire.

3. Watch free online tutorials on YouTube to see what art class may be for you.

Finally read our posts: It's never too late to become an artist, How art classes can be taught online and 7 ways to encourage creativity in your children.