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Introduction to the Colorado Visual Arts Standards

“Technical skills can be learned by almost anyone who has the determination to pursue it, but innovative ideas and the ability to express them come from some place beyond the material world.” --Carole Ann Borges


“Art exists in the space between nature and significance.” --Levi Strauss

Exploration of visual arts and design processes is about invention, creation, and innovation. Building on the development of ideas through a process of inquiry, discovery, and research leads to the creation of works of art, and, whether using traditional materials or the latest technologies, prepares students to be independent, lifelong learners. Participation in the visual arts provides students with unique experiences and skills that develop important traits for success in the 21st century workforce. Studying art and design involves inquiry, posing and solving problems, perseverance, re-purposing, taking risks, and persuading and inspiring.

Investigating the ideas and meanings in the work of artists, craftspeople, and designers across time and culture, including present day, allows for the examination of ideas across disciplines. Students make connections about concepts in art and design to history, literature, religion, politics, science, mathematics, and other arts disciplines. An examination of contemporary visual culture promotes critical analysis designed to help students to learn how people are influenced through the mass media.

Students engaged in thoughtful reflection about art and design (aesthetic appraisals) are competent in exhibiting, writing, and speaking about their investigations. Students engaged in visual art and design gain confidence in communicating and defending their ideas and decisions, and demonstrate a strong sense of self-identity.

The visual arts standards help educators to teach their students how to think like a “genius.” They provide inherent conceptual frameworks that are integral to higher-order thinking, expression, and experience. These discernments are intrinsic to the promotion, nurture and development of divergence in thought making and processing because they kindle the brain functions that spark innovation. When artists engage in the cognitive and experiential maneuvers provided by the visual arts, they are able to transform, reorganize, and transfer understanding into personal renderings and interpretations of the world around them. Verbal, logical, and number-sense brain functions are enhanced and accentuated by arts experiences, making the arts the “genius” centers for learning in the human brain. Contemporary brain research supports the notion of “genius” generated by arts experiences because of their direct impact on activating these brain functions.

The visual arts standards help students to solve problems and look at quandaries in different ways to find new points of view and perspectives. The arts help students to visualize and “see” the world around them in new combinations and regroupings, whether incongruent or unusual. This conceptual “play” produces new understandings around relationships and connections, thinking in opposites or metaphorically, and engaging in randomness or chance to address potential and opportunity. In this work, the artist develops a personal drive, discipline to work, and perseverance for the possibilities in the creative act in an effort to improve, continue, and transform. Working in space, series, and installation to develop a portfolio, exhibition, or individual work of art pushes the artist to create. The artist’s work ethic blooms and forms the pathway and trajectory to the next experience, process, or artifact along the innovation continuum provided by arts experiences. The visual arts help students to think like a “genius” and prepare them for the undiscovered frontiers of the 21st century and beyond.

  • Armstrong, Sarah. (2008). Teaching Smarter with the Brain in Focus: Practical Ways to Apply the Latest Brain Research to Deepen Comprehension, Improve Memory and Motivate Students to achieve.
  • Gurian, Michael. (2001). Boys and Girls Learn Differently!
  • Michalko, Michael. (1998). Thinking Like a Genius: Eight strategies used by the super creative, from Aristotle and Leonardo to Einstein and Edison (New Horizons for Learning) as seen at http://www.newhorizons.org/wwart_michalko1.html, (June 15, 1999) This article first appeared in THE FUTURIST, May 1998
  • Michalko, Michael. (1998). Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Set), and Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Geniuses (Ten Speed Press, 1998).
  • Wolfe, Patricia. (2001). Brain Matters; Translating Research into Classroom Practice.

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