Jacob Mann

Hi, my name is Jacob Mann and I cover the Art Beat for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. Stories start in many different ways. This one is a trilogy of sorts, featuring local voices from all walks of life discussing the value of art education and the role creativity plays inside our brains as well as the role it plays out and about our daily lives.

This week’s installment, “Art 101” is the first chapter of a three-part segment.

Let’s sharpen our pencils and get ready to go back to school because I have a magical grab bag full of thought-provoking questions and even more thought-provoking answers provided by Dr. Felicia Desimini, an art professor at the Mat-Su College.

Here are some of the main highlights from our conversation:

The other day, I was talking to a local musician and he said that art is usually one of the first things on the ‘chopping block’ when it comes to budget education cuts, do you agree?

“Yes. I think unfortunately that’s part of the problem with education, is that art and music and theater are the first things that get underfunded and done away with… It’s short-sighted because art can really teach you how to collaborate. Art can teach you to think critically… I mean who wants to be in school if you can’t have any fun? I mean, when we do art, we are doing serious play.”

Why do you think about the big push for the STEM model across the nation in recent years, which seems to have become a brand in its own right, and reflects the prevailing favoring of the left side of the brain and the apparent neglect to the right side the brain?

“Well, because there’s a fundamental misunderstanding about the right side and the left side of the brain. You can’t have a focus on just one side of your brain. They’re meant to work together. Again, it’s probably just shortsightedness… There’s a lot of science that goes into art.”

And visa versa too right, like an interchange exchange between the brain?

“Yeah, exactly… Art and science were so closely linked years ago and we’ve lost that link. We’ve just, I don’t know pushed it aside and said, ‘you don’t need the art but you need this to succeed. You need the science. You need the math. You’re not gonna go anywhere if you waste your life on art.’ We’re seen as some sort of inferior being as opposed to someone who actually contributes to the economy… It’s phenomenal how much art contributes to the economy, but most people don’t even think about that.”

Do you have any theories on how this happened or what we can do?

“I’m not sure… There’s no straightforward answer… I think we have to be more hands-on… I think we need to focus more on a more holistic approach, not only to education but to our child care. It’s fine for little kids to make messes… Let ‘em play. Let them create… They have such great ideas. We sometimes don’t honor those ideas.”

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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