The art experience
Art is coming down from its ivory tower.
With art programs disappearing from school systems, art teachers and educators are finding that the value of the art experience in a child's development must be presented in a realistic and humanitarian way. They seek to convince school administrators and parents that teaching a child to think creatively is not a luxury, but one of the most necessary tools parents and schools can provide.
According to Muriel Silberstein-Storfer, coordinator of the parent-child workshops at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and author of ''Doing Art Together'' (Simon & Schuster, New York, $17.50), verbal skills are emphasized so much today that there are few opportunities for children to express themselves through artistic means alone - to develop a visual vocabulary as well as a verbal vocabulary.
Many school curricula emphasize analyzing, logic, and reasoning skills at the expense of the more intuitive, conceptual aspects of a child's education. In this time of budget cutbacks, art and music programs are often considered frills and are the first to go.
According to the results of a study released in late December by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, tests given twice during the 1970s to over 95,000 students showed poor performances when 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds were asked to ''do'' some art, criticize art, and recognize major artworks. The authors of the study attribute the deficiency at least in part to their judgment that so little art is taught by specialists in elementary grades, schoolchildren are not receiving even a basic art education. The parent's role
''Parents are children's first teachers,'' Mrs. Silberstein-Storfer says. Just as artists work in association with one another to develop new ideas, parents and children can work together to develop greater visual awareness.
Peggy Jenkins, author of ''Art for the Fun of It'' (Prentice Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., $6.95), says parents should not be afraid to give their children art experience at home. ''I feel strongly that you don't have to define yourself as artistic or as a creative person to encourage it in others,'' she says. In fact, she has found that parents who are artistically advanced themselves may already have a definite idea about how a piece of artwork should turn out and may end up imposing their own ideas and values on a child's work. The session becomes a creative experience for the parent rather than the child. Sharing is a two-way street
Mrs. Silberstein-Storfer says parents often discover that sharing awareness is ''a pleasurable two-way street.'' For example, parents from her workshops tell her they enjoy museum trips more because their children are so alive to the colors, shapes, and patterns. After participating in art workshops, the museum experience is not so remote and children become comfortable looking at art. ''It becomes so much more meaningful to them,'' she says.
The visual awareness developed from the art experience can carry over to an awareness of clothing, home furnishings, and architecture. Mrs. Silberstein-Storfer says children fresh from her art workshops will notice a wallpaper design, for instance, or the pattern on their father's tie.
Art provides a common frame of reference between the parent and child as they find there are more ways to communicate than with words. In ''Doing Art Together'' Mrs. Silberstein-Storfer writes: ''The shared experience of doing art together . . . can continue throughout your lives, enriching relationships, revitalizing your spirits, intensifying simple pleasures, and influencing your child's development in unexpected ways.''
Mrs. Silberstein-Storfer believes that parents who have a positive art experience themselves and are convinced of the importance of promoting the creative experience are the best advocates for promoting art education. They may go to the PTA and suggest possibilities for improving programs or seek out other avenues for their children to learn.
Peggy Jenkins agrees: ''If you value creativity you will find the means to encourage it in others.'' Art as a balance to classroom activities
The art experience not only provides a balance to the more empirical skills, but offers the child who is not doing well academically an area in which he or she can feel a degree of success. Self-confidence gained from this experience can spill over into their other studies.
Art in itself is not mindless work. It demands concentration and creative thinking. A taste of the disciplines of the artist helps children to formulate work habits, take pride in their achievements, and see a project through to the end. Art develops problem-solving skills
Open-ended art assignments, where there is not a predetermined result, are exercises in problem-solving and encourage children to come up with their own answers rather than rely on ''cake-mix solutions.''
In a time of radical technological change, creative problem-solving abilities are in great demand. According to the Dec. 7, 1981, issue of U.S. News & World Report, experts predict that 15 million new jobs will be created in the United States by 1990. New developments in technology are signaling the end of the Industrial Revolution and ushering in the ''Information Revolution.'' With the resulting boom in new occupations, which exist even outside technological fields , the report says, ''People will be needed to perform tasks that were scarcely imagined only a few years ago.''
Increasingly, young people entering the job market will be called upon to provide answers to unexplored problems.
The best way parents and teachers can prepare children for this new age is to develop their problem-solving abilities, Ms. Jenkins says. She believes the art experience is one fundamental way to help children tap into the creative process and learn to visualize solutions.
With this goal in mind, art becomes a means to an end rather than an end in itself. As Ms. Jenkins explains, it is immaterial whether a child becomes an artist or not. The object is to equip a child to meet future challenges, whether it is in business, city planning, or household management.
In ''Art for the Fun of It,'' she writes: ''Most children will not grow up to be creators of art, but they can become intelligent consumers and perceptive interpreters in their world.''