When schools let out for the summer some of the greatest opportunities for adults (as well as children) loom large. The allure of a good summer read, whether it’s getting to a book that’s been sitting for a while or taking a chance on an unknown, can be as tasty as a favorite ice-cream flavor. Here are a few that might tempt!
Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White A well-researched and lengthy read about the endless practice and perseverance of the artist who traveled so many roads before finding the one for which he is best known. We follow Vincent from his early years as a student, through his struggles in the work place, Art school, and the Art-making processes. If you can manage to stick with the 800+ page text, you will feel the intensity with which this brilliant and troubled soul lived his short life.
The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present, by Eric Kandel Neuroscientist, Kandel, interweaves studies of Art-making and brain Science, making a case for the fact that it’s time to recognize that there is similar brain function when the mind is at work on either of the two subjects. Using his birth place, Vienna, as a context, he writes about Viennese culture and then focuses on brain circuits, the conscious, and unconscious brain. Having been enticed by the connection between Art and Science, I breezed through part one and soaked up all that I could from the second half of the study, which I heartily recommend.
The ARTS and the CREATION of MIND, by Elliot W. Eisner One of the best books I’ve read about the role of Art in education, what it could and should be. Eisner, a professor at Stanford, shares his perspectives on why and how Art makes us think. He describes why getting the answers we want from research is so tough and dishes up over a dozen reasons why Art making and viewing are musts in schools for the future.
Doing WELL and Doing GOOD by Doing ART: A 12 -Year National Study of Education in the Visual and Performing Arts, by James S. Catterall The results of a massive research project that gives some of the hard core data that we’ve long awaited. The author reveals ways in which Art positively affects children, particularly in financially less well-off communities and how students in “arts-rich” settings make gains across the board into their early adult years. Catterall’s focus is on Art’s impact on “doing well” (academic performance) and “doing good” (giving back).
IMAGINE: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer An easy-going and riveting read by scientist, Jonah Leher, who, at quite a young age seems to hit the nail on the head about how and where to grow one’s imagination. Through real world stories he explores such issues as why brainstorming is ineffective, and why the environments in which one works and lives will or won’t propel us to think better.
“The arts are among the resources through which individuals recreate themselves, says Eisner” As teachers and parents we can re-imagine and re-invent the ways in which we stretch kids by checking out what the pros are saying. If we know why Art matters we will make sure that our children and all children have the chance to think inventively and work creatively. ~More on the research to follow! Nancy Harris Frohlich