What does it mean to be a citizen? Surely it entails more than being born into a country, or have lived there all one’s life. During the French revolution, the people called each other “citizen” to signify their alliance with the movement. If you were a citizen, you were for the people and believed, as they did, the means for change that they have chosen. We’ve heard of the phrase, “citizen of the world” which hardly means that a person has a citizenship in every country. It implies a sense of belonging. Whether deeply planted or newly ensconced, it involves roots.
What does art and design have to do with citizenship? Every country has its unique sense of aesthetics based on its culture and history. Indeed, even within countries you have a diverse sense of what is considered beautiful reflected in buildings, art, music, and even fashion. We can safely say that art and design may be a reflection of citizenship, especially when the works were done by citizens themselves. Art and design is an expression of belonging and of roots. Paintings, buildings, sculptures, music, and dance can portray images that tell us about people, places, and attitudes, while also revealing ideas in a certain period of time. Since this is so, art and design goes beyond its aesthetic intention and can be one of most solid ways to educate people about their country’s culture and history.
Art and design can be vehicles, as well, for teaching values. Good citizens make for a better nation; and good citizens have values such as discipline, industry, and respect, to name a few. All of these values can be gleaned from the process of making art and design. Discipline and industry comes from the constant honing of one’s craft, be it in the visual arts, music or dance. Perseverance and sincerity comes from never settling for a half-baked creation. Respect comes from the appreciation of one’s creative process and of others. If our youth are encouraged to make art, they will surely have a deeper sense of appreciation for hard work. A better sense of accomplishment makes for a more sound self-esteem. If a country’s citizens feel good about themselves, then surely they will be better citizens. Today in schools, art and design have taken a backseat to subjects such as math and science. They have been lumped together with other subjects (music, art, P.E., health, and computer) and are required to be integrated so as to fit in all the information in a 40- to 50-minute lesson. Most schools, even the private ones, don’t have Art. Public school students don’t have Music until they reach the fourth grade. Math and science may be good vehicles for training minds to think logically, but art and design can also be used for this purpose as well as impart important values to citizens young and old alike.