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Art for art’s sake (and everyone else’s)

Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Vincent Blake shares ­­­his perspective on the importance of valuing arts in education. This is his second story in our graduate voices series.

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By Vincent Blake

“Even if you know deep down in your heart that you were meant to be a marine biologist or work in the medical field, there’s never any harm in taking advantage of the IB’s options to explore the arts”

As a freelance production designer during my last year of university, I spent many an hour at various Home Depot hardware stores throughout the Los Angeles area. While I had been studying film production for some time, it wasn’t until one Home Depot errand run in particular that I finally had an epiphanic moment influenced by one of the sales associates assisting my art director and me.

“Are you two homeowners?” he asked. My colleague and I exchanged looks and laughed. “No, we’re just constructing a set,” I responded. We confessed that we were film students and prepared ourselves for one of the classic responses we were so accustomed to hearing: “What are you going to do with a degree in that?” or better yet, “Your parents are paying for that?”

Instead, this kind gentleman immediately proclaimed, “You know, science may save the world, but the arts will make it worth saving.”

Yes, the IB is worth it.

Flashback four years prior to this Home Depot encounter, and I was a self-proclaimed Biology major. After all, the hard sciences promised more career possibilities and financial stability (or so I was repeatedly told); moreover, I didn’t totally crash and burn in IB Biology HL. Surely, I was destined to study and ultimately work in the hard sciences.

It goes without saying that at this time, I let the flurry of college applications and graduation get the best of me—something of which I advise current high school seniors to be aware. Consequently, I lost sight of one of the major aims of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (DP): to become a well-rounded individual. The DP offers students the ability to take classes from six “groups” of study, one of which is visual arts.

“No matter what subject you study and to what extent or depth, you are either helping to save the world or helping to make it worth saving, and both are of equal importance.”

To be perfectly transparent, the only art class I ever took was a community college summer course in art history to satisfy a high school graduation requirement. What a surprise to discover that a course lasting eight weeks was sufficient for a student to graduate from high school; however, this is where the IB proves itself invaluable yet again, specifically with creativity, action, service (CAS). The creativity portion of CAS augments the standard arts requirement of a California public high school education by requiring students to complete at least fifty hours of extracurricular, creative activity. In fact, I spent more time fulfilling the “C” category of CAS than I did in the aforementioned community college art class, for such only consisted of forty-five hours of in-class lecture.

Even if you know deep down in your heart that you were meant to be a marine biologist or work in the medical field, there’s never any harm in taking advantage of the IB’s options to explore the arts, for as the gentleman at Home Depot once wisely said, “The arts will make the world worth saving.”

The Three C’s

While there are plenty of reasons (and extensive articles) explaining why the arts and humanities benefit those in STEM fields, I found in my experience that they all boil down to the following: critical thinking, communication and compassion.

Most introductory arts courses emphasize critical thinking and analysis, teach us to be aware of our own reasoning and better understand the causes of certain phenomena. Side note to students considering a film class at university: prepare to spend more time analyzing movies than watching them.

For an example, let’s review a lesson from IB Biology HL 1: correlation versus causation. We know the former does not necessarily imply the latter.

Now let’s examine Jasper Johns’ painting Three Flags (1958) and consider an interpretation made at the time of its creation. Despite this artwork consisting of three American flags, critics claimed that the work was anti-patriotic, for the flags appear to be “shrinking” in succession. Such brings us to question if this is truly the artist’s intention that justly caused this interpretation, or if this criticism is simply correlated with the public’s preoccupation with the Cold War at the time.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “What does any of this have to do with science?” Well, when we strengthen our analysis skills and consider the context of a phenomenon, event or data, we become a bit more aware of other interpretations and perhaps can even acquire a more objective and accurate perspective—all the better to save the world with, right?

Naturally, in explaining our interpretations and justifying them with critical reasoning, we strengthen our communication skills. In addition, learning another language (e.g., Group 2 of the IB Diploma Program) helps eliminate cultural and communication barriers. By this token, literature and language help to unite us as global citizens. Such leads us to our third and final “C:” compassion. In studying other cultures along with their respective histories, arts, and languages, we inevitably become more knowledgeable, understanding, and respectful of them. Can anyone tell me what the IB mission statement says again?

As I’ve said before, I was at one point certain I would study biology and work in a STEM-related field, but that quickly changed when I took my first college chemistry course. No matter what subject you study and to what extent or depth, you are either helping to save the world or helping to make it worth saving, and both are of equal importance.

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Vincent Blake earned his IB diploma in his hometown of Fairfield, California, U.S. From there, he attended his local community colleges and then transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles where he earned his B.A. in Film and Television in 2018. Though currently employed at NBCUniversal, he hopes to someday return to the classroom as an IB Film instructor. You can connect with Vincent on LinkedIn here.

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at alumni.relations@ibo.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!

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