Art, needless to say, sparks creativity and critical thinking skills, provided that teachers allow their students the chance to be critical producers of art. In “Why a Child Needs a Critical Eye, and Why the Art Classroom is Central in Developing it,” Knight (2010) emphasized that visual arts education should not be passive, but proactive and critical. Arts education should not be about following instructions alone, but allowing elementary students to perceive, interpret, and criticize visual images using their own experiences and logic. In addition, art promotes more complex thinking skills: “…What does seem to matter, however, is whether this responsiveness is personally meaningful and whether it becomes progressively more complex with time” (Csikszentmihalyi & Robinson, 1990, p.181 as cited in Knight, 2010, p.238). Art can engage students to go beyond describing the world, but also recreating and criticizing it through their own re-imaginings.
Creativity cannot be detached from the narrative of self-awareness, and so art helps children understand their identities through exploring and expressing their cultural values and practices, and this is an important step to a meaningful existence in society. In “Past, Present, Future: Stories of Identity in an Elementary Art Room,” Pellish (2012) explored the power of arts education in helping children express and strengthen their cultural identities. She worked as a visual arts elementary teacher in a multicultural school, where she felt that these “developing voices” needed a medium of communication. She believed that children wanted to make sense of their world: “Children feel the need to tell their own stories, to make sense of what is unfolding around them” (Pellish, 2012, p.19). Aside from being able to form their stories, art allows children to gain