Prima Materia Institute is changing the way art is being taught.

 In art, Blog, Deep learning

Prima Materia Institute is special in the way they approach teaching art. Art is not only about pretty pictures; it’s about deep learning, sparking curiosity, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Olya Losina, the co founder of Prima Materia Institute and the creator of the Losina Method, always talks how art is the connector of the sciences, among other topics. Bill Beatty, co founder of Prima Materia Institute, analyzes how the deep teaching of art ultimately leads to one’s ability to benefit from their individuality. I brought up the proposed budget plan that will be affecting San Diego, and we decided to sit down and talk about funding arts, and why we think art education is so valuable.


“What do you think about the proposed bill to cut funding from the arts?”

Olya: “Funding the arts may mislead. Funding what? Funding the way the schools as they are now? That’s not teaching art; it’s more entertainment, recreation. And there’s nothing wrong with that. However, for most students, art isn’t about learning. But art is learning. Funding should go to teachers that can teach this [deeper learning]; money for the arts needs to be put towards educating educators.

Art is awakening. And it’s not from you just dabbing into art. It’s from deep art education – drawing, intentional looking from drawing and eventually painting, reading and studying, having conversations and discussions. It’s all one thing, you cannot tear them from one another. This is what you get from the Intro to Art sessions; that curiosity, that fertile ground for learning is established. At first, the brain is like “Eh, okay. I hope I learn something today.” But at the end of the exercise, they don’t even understand what’s going on with them anymore. Just making art gets you nowhere. Putting a brush into your hand and coloring may or may not result in anything. Now we’re not just talking about art – we’re talking about something way past art.

You begin to see, through art, that other people have their uniqueness – and you begin to appreciate others. And you start to open your eyes to who other people are, and who you are not. People’s differences are usually considered weaknesses, but these weaknesses are not weaknesses – they are unique characteristics that are assets.

Art helps you understand all kinds of things: science, philosophy, literature, because art is the center, a connector, that unifies all the sciences together. When you start studying art, you start to notice that you slip into the sciences all the time. When you talk about color, you split into optics, physics. When you talk about pigments and substrates, you talk about chemistry. If you pay attention to how your mind learns, and how it resists, you slip into psychology. Of course, history and linguistics. I haven’t figured out how astronomy fits into the picture, but it probably does.

It’s not even the most important that art connects [the sciences]; rather it awakens curiosity to learn the sciences. You begin to see that science is an extension of art. If you expel art, then you’re left with disjointed disciplines. How is math related to literature? It isn’t. It’s even put, by people who like to compartmentalize, that the sciences are on one spectrum and the humanities are on another. But that’s not how it was in Ancient Greece; it was all one knowledge. Art helps you understand that you cannot chop the disciplines into different learning directions, because then you don’t understand how things work.”

Bill: I agree with Olya in that I don’t think funding should be going towards the way art is being taught right now. At the same time, I think we need to fund art education as a means of communication, such that it preserves the uniqueness of the individual and gives the opportunity to the individual to express themselves and their uniqueness. Keep fostering that and who knows what they’ll solve.  

We’re coming to a time where we are needing more expert generalists, rather than expert specialists. Expert generalists, that person that knows a little about a lot of different things, then has the ability to cross apply that knowledge, so that they can take what they learned in physics and apply it to chemistry, and so on. This allows them to creativity solve problems that no expert specialist would be able to think of. An artist is trained to view same the subject, look in depth, and express it in a new way. And that is where I think the money and effort for art education needs to go; towards teaching people to become artists, into those that can think outside the box and come up with unique solutions.”





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An instructor and a student discussing art.A college portfolio student and an instructor go over the student's art portfolio before submission.