What Does an Art Teacher Do?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Usually the reference to an art teacher means a teacher of visual arts. An art teacher may work in a school, college, or university; be associated with a studio or museum; or give private lessons. In any of these positions, an art instructor will — over time — be likely to address six basic areas. These are: how to create visual arts using various media; the structures and functions involved in art of different genres and purposes; the choice and evaluation of the content of art; the relationship of the visual arts to historic events and cultures; how to assess works of art; and the interrelationships of the visual arts with other disciplines. In many cases, these areas will not be taught as separate distinct units; rather instruction will be intermingled and overlapping.

When teaching the first area, the art teacher helps students to understand the techniques and processes involved in using various media, as well as providing the students opportunities to actually experience using these media. The media could include anything from paint to clay to pastels to metal to wood to dyes. The techniques and processes might include, for example, brush strokes, various approaches using a potter’s wheel, smudging, welding, carving, and batiking.


When teaching the second area, the art teacher helps students acquire knowledge of structures and functions. This means that he or she helps students understand the meaning of artistic and practical function, as well as the underlying organizational principles of the arts, including repetition, contrast, emphasis, balance, and unity. Students become aware of different perspectives on the roles of these elements in works of art, are able to evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches, and are able to make effective choices about structure and function in creating their own work.

With regard to the third area, the art instructor focuses on the content of art, including subject matter, the use of symbols, and the incorporation of ideas into artwork. Students learn to thoughtfully consider and choose the content of the artwork they create. They also identify the origins, purposes, and effectiveness of subjects, symbols, and ideas in the art of others.

Fourthly, the art teacher helps to place artworks in the context of history and culture. Students become able to analyze works of arts in terms of their historical and cultural provenance. They also are able to identify common elements in artwork of diverse origins.

Fifth, the art instructor helps students acquire a set of standards by which to evaluate of their own artwork and the work of others. Students explore the concepts of intention, meaning, and effectiveness. They become able to interpret works of arts in these terms and understand their own responses to art in terms of the techniques and content of the art.

Finally, the art teacher draws connections between the visual arts and other arts, as well as other disciplines. Students become able to see principles that underlie multiple disciplines. They learn to see works of art in terms of ideas from other disciplines, such as the humanities or sciences.


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Post 4

@Sneakers41 - I have to say that my kid’s elementary art teacher is wonderful. They love art so much because of her. She has them create the most beautiful projects. My favorite thing that she does is create an end of year art show in which all of the artwork is displayed and the kids absolutely love it.

I have to say that some of the paintings are so remarkable that I often ask what materials were used because the paintings have a nice shiny gloss that I would love to replicate. I learn so much from the show and get ideas as to what projects I could look into doing myself.

Post 3

@Icecream17 - I agree. I remember in high school, I had a fabulous art teacher who taught me how to properly hold a pencil and create gesture drawings which were like a simple outline that allowed you to draw almost anything without intimidation.

I think that a great art teacher really brings out the best in students and allows them to be happy with their results because in art some people are talented while other are not.

I always found that art teachers that focused on having the student do their best and not have perfect standards always enjoyed the course more.

Post 2

@Moldova - I know what you are saying, but art teachers can work at a camp or even have their own business. I have seen a lot of afterschool art programs developed by art teachers that teach children in the their own location.

You just have to have art teacher supplies like paint, brushes, smocks, and newsprint paper to run the business. I have even seen some of the businesses run in a local park, so you might not even have to lease an office space.

I think that art education is important for kids because it allows them to develop their creativity in such a productive way. It is a course that have I always looked forward to as a child.

Post 1

I was interested in learning how to become an art teacher at one time. I always loved to create art and thought that it would be fun to teach children how to create different works of art too.

Since I already had a Bachelor’s degree, I only needed to get an art teacher certification which consisted of thirty credits of art classes like drawing, sculpture, and art history. I also had to take a few education courses and pass a certification exam.

The problem is that with all of the budget cuts in the school system, there are very few opportunities to teach art. In fact, unfortunately this is one of the areas that gets cut first. So I decided not to pursue this field due to the lack of art teacher job openings.

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