Charles Eames on Art Education in Public Schools Posted November 13, 2019 by Marlow Hoffman

What did Charles Eames think about art education in public schools? Find out in this 1957 interview.

The value we place on the arts in our society—monetarily and otherwise—has been under the microscope in recent years, so it seems appropriate to share Charles’s insights, which are as relevant and important today as they were 60+ years ago.



QUESTION   Of what relative value do you believe art education is to the academic subjects taught in our schools?

CHARLES EAMES   It would never occur to me to consider art as a subject apart from any other in the curriculum. Art education increases in value to the degree that it is related to the whole academic picture. I see art education as a kind of thing that threads its way through every facet of academic work.

[Q]   Do you see evidence of general growth in the creativity of our youth?

CE   I am so aware of the increasing potentials that I am a little blinded to whether or not youth is living up to these potentials.

[Q]   What do you advocate for better art education? 

CE   First, better teachers. This involves better teacher training, better teacher preparation, higher salaries, better professional standing resulting in greater community respect. Secondly, a genuine rapport between all areas of learning.

[Q]   Do you feel more compulsory art education in the secondary school would help eliminate juvenile delinquency?

CE   Of course it would have some effect, about the same as would religious education. Perhaps the best thing art education could do for the problem of juvenile delinquency would be to concern itself, also, with some of the disciplines that belong to its own structure. I regret that in a great measure art education seems to have abandoned these disciplines.

[Q]   What should the role of the parent and teacher be in developing appreciation of art in the child?

CE   To display in their own words and in their own actions a consistent sense of selectivity and consciousness of quality.

[Q]   To what extent do you believe the child should be permitted to explore the medium unguided—undirected?

CE   It’s up to the child—permitted or not—to find a way to explore the medium unguided and undirected.

[Q]   Do you believe in private lessons in art for the “gifted” child?

CE   I believe in private and personal enthusiasm. If it rises to the degree that involves additional people or training—well, fine. The help most such children need is in relating their particular talents to other areas in their life, and to areas in their life with which they are not familiar.


Source: Charles Eames interview, May 2, 1957, Private collection, Los Angeles. See more Eames interviews like this one in the book An Eames Anthology.