Beyond the political correctness of incorporating the ‘A’ for Arts into the STEM formula, it is important to understand the various aspects that can be played by the arts, and culture and creativity in general, in relation to the formal and non-formal educational environment.

Although it may seem evident, the arts involve a series of non-uniform practices, disciplines and expressions that enable an approach to reality and an understanding of the world that are different from those of technology and science. Not opposing, but complementary. The arts are the ‘sphere from which to create, compose and propose, working with diverse forms, materials, languages, expressions and relationships, and producing new meanings, stories, representations, devices, symbolic spaces and subjectivities’[1].

The role played by the arts today in the regulated environment generally clearly reflects a social undervaluing of the arts, deemed to be minor, dispensable, useless and impractical content. Repositioning the arts in educational curriculums, as well as in other non-formal education processes, is apparently a crucial step towards their reassessment and to enriching education by incorporating their various aspects.

We propose five potential fields of Arts-Education interaction, assuming that each of these affects various areas of the educational and training system, basically in schools, and that they can be understood as a gradual process of qualification and significance that the role of the ‘A’ has to play in this system:

  1. The arts as an independent discipline: This aspect is the one that has traditionally linked the arts to the limited idea of crafts or plastic arts expression, or in some cases to knowledge based on a historical perspective of areas such as music (usually classical). Although various attempts to reassess expressive, relational and artistic skills among pupils have been implemented, it is apparently clear that, at least in Spain, they have not been successful either in terms of content or methodology, with very few cases in which the arts as a discipline can act on an equal footing with other areas of knowledge.
  2. The arts as a discipline linked to other disciplines: This aspect focuses on how the arts are linked to other fields of knowledge in two ways: (1) by improving the understanding of scientific-technical knowledge through analysing and interpreting existing works of art, for example in fields such as biology, geometry, physics or chemistry, or (2) by interpreting and recording scientific-technical, social or natural processes in an artistic manner by generating artefacts (broadly speaking, works of art from photography, music, theatre, etc.). A good example in this sense could be Maths, Science and Music or Gorputzaldiak.
  3. The arts as a structuring discourse: This aspect converts the arts, culture and creativity into the backbone of the various areas of knowledge that make up curriculums. The arts and creative expressions become the guiding thread of educational discourse through which various disciplines are linked, thereby promoting an overall perspective and capacity for expression and experimentation in students. One notable example of this is Aliances Magnet.
  4. The arts as a transformative experience: This aspect converts the arts and creativity into unique experience elements for students as well as shared meaning creative elements. A way of addressing challenges or needs by generating specific processes that seek change, reflection or transformation; co-creation processes, usually mediated by artists or creative people, that address and lead to tangible or intangible solutions that address a detected need or problem, thereby bringing out the creative, expressive and relational capacities of students. Two interesting examples of this aspect are In Residence: Artists at the Schools of Barcelona or LÓVA.
  5. The arts as a process of innovation: This aspect converts the arts and creativity into tools through which to address challenges faced by the educational community, focusing not on creating works of art in the traditional sense, but on their role as articulators of creative processes accompanying transformation and change. These may be processes that affect organisational innovation, strategic reassessments and technological, service or relational innovation processes, among others. Several examples of this can be found in these projects developed by Conexiones improbables together with Lauaxeta Ikastola and San Pelayo School.


Article written by Roberto Gómez de la Iglesia and Anna Pinotti Blanch.

[1] Antón, R. and Gómez de la Iglesia, R., Kultursistema. Matriz para el mapeado, interpretación y análisis de los ecosistemas culturales y creativos [Matrix for mapping, interpreting and analysing cultural and creative ecosystems], Ed. Karraskan, Bilbao, 2017.