Why We Make Art (Book)

And Why it is Taught

Does art have any use or real purpose in today’s society? Why do governments around the world spend millions on art education? Rejecting the vogue for social and cultural accounts of the nature of art-making, this book is largely psychological in its approach to discussing art-making and its place in education. The ‘we’ in the title is intentionally polemical, with the author claiming a universal, i.e. pan-cultural basis for ‘art’-making activities - or rather activities which can be described as ‘creating aesthetic significance’. Developmental issues in art education are examined, together with the nature of learning in art, with reference to concept acquisition.Section two of the four sections which comprise the book, focuses upon some ‘mini case-studies’, detailing conversations with people talking about their art-making, together with some autobiographical reflections. Section three then considers the issues in art and learning which can be gleaned from various respondents’ accounts of their making activities; these include the nature of the artistic personality and the role of art in self-identity and self-esteem. Other topics touched upon include imagination, expression and creativity. The concluding section examines the notion of creating aesthetic significance as a fundamental human urge, drawing upon work done in evolutionary psychology.Whilst questioning whether schools as they are currently conceived are the best places for teaching and learning anything, an art curriculum based upon the acquisition of ‘threshold skills’, such as drawing, together with a gradual introduction to the appreciation of visual form is advocated. Declaring that schools of the early twenty-first century will soon be seen as as dated as the Victorian workhouse, the successful art room, with a learner-centred rather than discipline-centred philosophy is put forward as a model for schools and schooling.

Category: Visual Arts


Governments around the world spend millions on art and cultural institutions, evidence of a basic human need for what the author refers to as 'creating aesthetic significance.' Yet what function or purpose does art satisfy in today’s society? In this thorough and accessible text, Hickman rejects the current vogue for social and cultural accounts of the nature of art-making in favor of a largely psychological approach aimed at addressing contemporary developmental issues in art education. Bringing to bear current ideas about evolutionary psychology, this second edition will be an important resource for all interested in arts education.
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