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December 14, 2018

How to look at art: Art is intelligence

la belle ferronierre
la belle ferronierre

The Nobel Prize scientists are 25 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than ‘average’ scientists. Eighty per cent of inventors say that art directly enhanced their ability to invent. 

Schoolchildren who participate in the arts are four times better at academic performance, and three times better at leadership and school attendance. They are more resilient, persistent, motivated and confident, with positive work ethics. 

Ninety per cent of top US chief executives say they want to recruit people actively practising art. The New York Times said that the MFA (Master of Fine Art) is a new MBA.

How does art make us more intelligent? Art develops our visual thinking, which is key to our creativity — the ‘true intelligence’, as Albert Einsten called it. Eighty-five per cent of our thinking is mediated through vision; in children, this number is even higher. The regions of the brain that interpret information collected by the visual sensors are much stronger in creative people. According to neuroscience, brain neurons specialise against images. 

Nobel Prize scientists report that 99 per cent of their discoveries come as images. Images, not numbers and words, played a significant role in Albert Einstein’s thinking. The advanced ability to process information visually, it seems, is the key to our intelligence and, some even believe, to our evolution.

Second, art practices break old patterns of thinking. Art teaches us HOW to think, not what to think. Old thinking — putting information into ‘boxes’ — is detrimental to our success and even survival. In our rapidly changing world, ‘boxes’ become quickly irrelevant. We are left confused and disoriented, new ideas can’t enter the mind. Alarmingly, research shows that only two per cent of 25-year-old adults can think ‘outside the box’.

What to do? Practising art is the answer to becoming high achievers. In the countries that consistently outperform in math and reading (Canada, Hong Kong, Russia and Sweden), schools offer extensive education in the arts. 

In Kenyan schools, art education is critically limited. As the Kenya Institute of Education reports, ‘the value of the arts is not recognised’.


Alla Tkachuk founded MASK School for Creativity and Innovation (aka Mobile Art School in Kenya), [email protected]





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