Zart Art is 30 Years Old!

Term: 2 Year: 2018

At this juncture in the life of the company, we take the opportunity to reflect on what we are about and where we are going.

We humans have an innate need to make things. Things that are new. Beautiful things. Provocative things. Ugly things. Outlandish and weird things. A comprehensive education system fuels this aspect of human nature and nourishes future generations.

Creativity and innovations drive the future of industrial nations such as ours. Children make the future. And educators help prepare children for that future.

How do teachers then help children to be creative and innovative? Primarily, by giving them lots of practice at being creative and innovative! Teachers must champion the unknown, the imagined and reimagined, the experimental, the impossible, as well as the ‘failures’ if young people are to be truly creative and innovative and acquire the skill-set and dispositions that will prepare them for the future.

Central to art education is the creative process – the exploration of ideas; the investigation of art media; the acquisition of skills such as the use of the elements and principles of art; the strengthening of interpretive and analytical systems of thought. But art is more than a process. As the art-maker works with materials and tools, relationships between their inner and outer life are forged, and symbolic languages are formed. These symbolic languages, full of metaphors, speak to the artist and move them in ways that words cannot.

If we could say everything that needs to be said in words, then we would have no need for the arts. Yet the arts thrive in the everyday life of a healthy culture. Through the arts, we can express deep feelings, such as, love, freedom, beauty, compassion, truth, outrage… which are not fully available to everyone through spoken and written language. That is why the art-maker can be profoundly satisfied by the process of creating a meaningful composition or moved to tears by looking at a painting or making a sculpture. Art languages speak to us in unique and profound ways.

The tenets underpinning Zart’s existence have not changed in the past thirty years. We believe visual arts education is central to learning and should, therefore, be a significant presence in the curriculum. To this end, we have developed a wide range of quality art products for students of all ages and have supported, and continue to support, teachers in visual arts education.

Schools are in a constant state of change. During the past three decades, we have observed the impact of technology on learning (skilling in technology often means deskilling in other areas). We have come to recognise the importance of play, especially in the early learning years, as well as the need for rich and inviting environments to promote curiosity and creativity. We know that children learn through the process of socialisation and much prefer to be active participants than spectators. Also, brain-science has expanded our knowledge of the value of art as a form of mindfulness. We now know that participation in mindfulness activities significantly increases blood flow to areas of the brain associated with controlling emotions and regulating stress. Art for well-being has an essential role in holistic education.

The arts, in general, have, however, faced many challenges – the marginalisation of the arts (evident from the reduction in time allocation), the challenges generalist teachers face in trying to teach specialist subjects, the move towards motivational learning matter based on student interest and learning styles, and lack of time for professional learning. These challenges serve to ensure that Zart continues to listen, learn and respond as it strives to assist teachers in delivering effective visual arts programs for 21st-century students.

We take this opportunity to thank teachers for their support and belief in what we do. We would also like to thank the staff and art consultants (past and present) who have contributed to the growth and development of Zart. Zart’s success has been the work of a team of people who have been, and continue to be, committed to the value and joys of visual arts education.

‘Life is short, but Art lives forever’ ~ Cicero

Rex Swindel-Hurst and Dani Chak