Art is omnipresent in our lives, even if we don’t notice it. But the recent pandemic caused by the new coronavirus proved it once again. Being forced to stay home for a long period of time, people realized how art in its many forms was important for their daily life. Cinema and music helped thousands of people to occupy their time and to make that period a little better.

Besides that art can also be an important education tool. Normally we associate art to simple leisure, to cultural fruition or even to capitalistic monetization. Also recently we saw how NFT reinforced the relationship between art and money, following that main rule of capitalism that declares that everything must have a price. But art is more deep than that.

Art can be a fundamental non-formal education tool, specially to work with youngsters, helping teachers, educators, youth workers and other professional to teach young people in a more versatile, funny and engaging way. Besides that art can help to stimulate creativity, to open horizons and to change perspectives of the world. The results are enormous and it’s more powerful as sooner we implement them in a younger age.

“Art is what men call or called Art”.

The best definition of art is still the one that Dino Formaggio, the Italian philosopher and critic, wrote in his book from 1973, “Art”. In this book he reflects about the many conditions of art, going to the limits and concluding that art is everything and art is nothing. Can sound a bit paradoxal but it is easy to understand when we think art as a transverse discipline where many others converge.

But naturally this is not a closed definition. It’s easier to analyze the etymology of the word “art”. It comes from the latin word “are”, that means skill or ability, which is pertinent. And it leads to another question: is art a technique or is technique an art? Once again there is no right answer to this question. The possibilites are huge, as well as the possibilities of art, that is easier to analyze according to its representation, emotion and form.

In the beginning art was a representation of life, a copy or imitation. The Greeks called it “mimesis” and it is the basis of Art, a representation of something from Nature. Of course this conception changes and evolved with the years passing by. Later on, in the 18th century, art became more connected with emotion. It was the time of Romanticism and the philosopher R. G. Collingwood was the first one to see and to think art as an emotional view. This gives art an important social role, making it political as well, taking in consideration that every social action is a political action.

Finally, art can also be perceived by its formal quality, defined by its rhythm, harmony, unity and aesthetic. This was the basis of abstract art and the beginning of contemporary art. In the 20th century art achieved more direct conceptions, many times depending on the institutions and people. Take in consideration ready-made, where objects change perception according to the context. A can of soup is only a can of soup except when it’s in a museum and not in a supermarket. Marcel Duchamp took it to the extreme with his inverse urinol.

Why Art is Important?

Art is fundamental to the construction of our personality because it is a confluence of many disciplines, being perceived differently by every person according to our education, background and provenience. Many thinkers and philosophers explored the idea how art influences our cognitive behavior, strengthens connections and increases our self-esteem. All of this benefits our mental and physical health.

That’s why art should be seen as a full discipline and not only as an extra activity in schools. Nowadays the education system reduces the teaching of art to a mechanical transmission of ideas, instead of promoting critical thinking, the discussion of ideas and active dialog. That’s the only way to stimulate creativity and critical thinking among people and youngsters in particular.

Of course this is not easy. It depends a structural planning, that meets the motivation of young people. But this is also the life of all educators. Non-formal education methodologies allow to make this an easier process, at the same time it meets the real needs of the young people. With non-formal eduction methodologies art becomes the true patrimony of Humanity, allowing everyone to learn with the others. The impact is incalculable on many levels: on an intelectual level, an affective level and a critic level.

Besides that art is also a very important education tool for young people because is a collective process. This promotes specific competences too, namely working in teams, under pressure and leading skills. But the facilitator as a fundamental role in this process. He is the key agent in this learning process and its learning outcomes. He is the one that needs to understand, identify and adapt the working methodologies to the needs of the youngsters, promoting the abilities of each one.

The Benefits of Art as a Educational Tool 

In the last years many studies had proven what we already knew: art is a powerful tool in the education of youngsters. Specially when it starts from a young age, because it affects and stimulates strongly the cognitive aspects of youngsters. Being a creative element, art helps to develop critic thinking, the ability of of reflect about things, non-linear thinking, creativity and innovation, knowledge and autonomy. And through art many skills and competences are also developed, like body expression, visual and audio knowledge or holistic thinking, for example.

The promotion of this competences create an exponential effect, because it increases the chances of success of young people, thought the development of more creative, integrated and sustainable skills. But we need to think about education through art not only as the promotion os music, dance or theater, for example, but as an integrated and combined process, that mixes up all artistic disciplines: fine arts, cinema, theater, circus, literature, poetry…

It means that art should be perceived as a transverse discipline and not as an isolated tool. And the objective of the trainer, educator or facilitator is to find ways to make art education to be more attractive. And non-formal education is the solution for this. Non-formal education is an alternative and a complement to formal education, with more dynamic methodologies, that are more flexible and adaptable to meet the real needs and motivation of young people. 


Formaggio, Dino – “Arte”, 1973, Italy

Mae, Ana – “A imagem no ensino da arte: anos oitenta e novos tempos”, 1993, Brazil

Read, Herbert – “Education Through Art”, 1943, United Kingdom

Francastel, Pierre – “Art et Technique”, 1956, France

This educational resource was produced with the financial support of the European Union within Erasmus+ Programme. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Asociación Socio-Cultural VerdeSur Alcalá and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.