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What is Artistic Literacy?

One of the primary objectives of the FBS Fine Arts Department is to produce artistically literate students, but what exactly is “artistic literacy?” According to the national arts standards, artistic literacy is “the knowledge and understanding to participate authentically in the arts.” This doesn’t mean, however, that our goal is to make every student a lifelong performer or professional creator. Instead, we hope, by participating in every area of the creative process that students will learn to understand, interpret, appreciate, and connect to various forms of artistic expression beyond their fine arts classes and cultural event attendance requirements.

Artistic literacy is not simply illustrated in the professional ballerina dancing center stage at Lincoln Center. It is just as evident in the audience member who is able to follow the story or theme of the ballet and discuss the performance with friends intelligently afterwards. It is not just the professional artist whose paintings fill the walls of a downtown gallery. Artistic literacy is demonstrated in the gallery guest who can look at the paintings and make observations about the creative decisions of the artist, connecting relevant meaning or symbolism that might be behind those decisions. It’s not only the members of the symphony, but the patrons who appreciate an evening of live music. Artistic literacy is needed for lifelong participation in the arts in all capacities, and we believe it is a crucial part of a well-rounded education.

The arts play a crucial role in society, serving as communicative instruments, expressions of cultural identity and ideology, and even peacemaking efforts. When countries from around the world gather together for the Olympics, it is the arts, not athletics, which are featured in the opening ceremony to reflect the culture and beliefs of the host nation. To commemorate special occasions or grieve the loss of loved ones, society turns to its artists to unite people in their joy or sorrow through music, memorials, or spoken word. To elicit an emotional response from potential consumers, advertisers use the arts to convey their message and prompt the desired reaction. Because the arts are so ingrained in the personal and professional business of society, artistic literacy is necessary for achieving one’s full potential as a contributing member of society.

So, whether your child plans to create art or not, the arts will undeniably be a part of their future in some capacity. Through our fine arts programs, we aim to prepare all students to better understand and relate to the arts in the world around them.


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