Arts making is one of the most important activities of human life. A discussion of the arts focuses on how people communicate their perceptions, responses, and understanding of the world to themselves and others. Since their first appearance thousands of years ago, the arts have been evolving continually, exhibiting the ability of human beings to intuit, symbolize, think, and express themselves through dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts (Corbett, et al., 2019; Eric, 2001; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization., 2022). Each of the arts contains a distinct body of knowledge and skills that characterize the power of each to expand the perceptual, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of human experience (Eric, 2001).
This capacity of human beings to create and appreciate the arts is just one of many reasons to teach the arts in schools. Study and practice in the arts refine students’ abilities to perceive aesthetically, make connections between works of arts and the everyday lives of people, and discuss visual, kinesthetic, and auditory relationships. Students are taught to locate works of art in time and place, make reasoned judgments about them, and investigate how works of art create meaning (Crossick et al., 2016; Donovan, Walling, et al., 2021; Kane et al., 1998).
Arts is divided into two broad areas which are visual and performing arts. Visual arts include the arts that can be seen in form of sculpture, painting, graphics, textiles, ceramics, industrial designs and drawing while performing arts are such arts as dance, music, and theatre. In the newly Nigeria curriculum, the combination of the visual and performing arts are regarded as creative arts. The visual and performing arts framework is designed to help classroom teachers and other educators develop curriculum and instruction in the arts so that all students will meet or exceed the content standards in dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts. Specifically, the framework:
Presents guiding principles for instruction in dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts.
Guides the planning, implementation, and evaluation of comprehensive, standards-based visual and performing arts education programmes.
Presents the key content standards for all levels of primary and secondary education.
Guides curriculum development for comprehensive, standards-based visual and performing arts education programmes.
Provides information on the purpose and forms of assessment in the arts.
Presents details on teacher preparation and professional development for each arts discipline.
Provides criteria for the evaluation of instructional materials in the arts for primary and secondary education.
Arts is a creative process and product of self-expression. We live in a world of arts. For instance, the dresses we wear, the books we read, the decorations in our homes, vehicles and the furniture used in our homes and offices. These are all arts. Arts also includes all the variety of goods that are produced in factories, the churches and mosques where we worship and at traditional festivals. In our everyday life, art is used to communicate and entertain. It is employed to serve utility functions. That is why some schools of thought think that arts are life and a language which everybody understands (Ssegantebuka, 2017).
Arts cut across science and technology and is indeed a cornerstone for any genuine development process. However, works of art are prototypes of inventions of science and technology. Ezekwe (1997) indicates that it is the transition from manual to machine-based techniques of production of numerous crafts based on an industrial process that brought about the industrial revolution in Great Britain in the 18th century. In today’s global economy, indigenous and foreign products such as adire from western Nigeria, mat making from Northern Nigeria, shoemaking from Aba, bead making from Bida, Akwaette from Umuahia, Brazilian shoes, Japanese Electronic, Italian furniture, American cars and Indian fabrics, to mention a few, sell like hot cake in the international market. This is attributed to their artistic designs and finishing. Nothing identifies a country today more than the unique quality of its goods in the world market. For any country or society to excel in the area of arts for its maximum benefits needs to have a comprehensive arts education programme.
The Arts Education programme contributes to producing job creators instead of seekers because it helps to develop entrepreneurship education. It does this through its emphasis on the acquisition and practical utilization of technical skills and knowledge. This enables the students of arts education to learn in the best way, how to use their hearts, brain and hands, to maximize their contribution to the development of the society. The major aim of Arts Education is, therefore, to seek the highest development in the creative spirit of every individual (Peter, 1986; The Teachers’ Union NASUWT, 2017).
All students can learn and benefit from arts education. All teachers and administrators, not just those who specialize in the arts, must support and be involved in arts education and must have opportunities to participate in well-designed pre-service and in-service arts education programmes. Time, staff, facilities, materials, and equipment must be provided to support the arts.
The area of visual arts which is the concern of this study involves two major ways of educating students in arts education. They are formal and informal education. Formal education involves education under an organized classroom setting while informal education is a general term for education outside of a standard school setting. It can refer to various forms of alternative education, such as unschooling or homeschooling autodidacticism (Self-teaching). In arts education, there are various formal art schools and art centres in Nigeria where this arts education are studied. The ones that are being offered from the primary school level to the university level are regarded as arts in a formal education setting. These are arts education studied in primary schools, secondary schools, college of education, polytechnic and university. But in informal art education, this is the type being studied at various art centres owned by a group of individuals, privately-owned centres and self-taught practice. This type does not have a standard curriculum for their arts training. Their mode of training is based on individual ideologies and styles of the various centres. Their method of instruction is apprenticeship type of teaching and demonstration. This is a demonstration in the addition to imitating the action of the demonstrator and for the imitated action to be evaluated. This is a good method of acquiring skills and encourages learner teacher, teacher-learner and material learner interaction. One problem with this method is that the learner can be unable to acquire the skill after all (Okwo, 2009). But in all ramifications, most of the artists that have gone through formal art training in universities often starts their early art training from these various informal arts centres or self-taught practice. Langley (2018) noted that when it comes to arts education, you may learn best in a traditional environment, or you may feel that it stifles original thought and creativity. The self-taught artist learns by experiencing life and determining their lesson plan. At times the self-taught artist may not want or need a traditional arts education to make their mark. Self-taught artists do not have formal art education. However, they possess significant life experiences which are personal, creative, and social. And can relate to everyday people who enjoy arts. Self-taught artist or independent artist is an artist who, without any prior formal art training in any school or under formally trained artist or art teacher, acquires on his own, through influences around him, all the art knowledge that he needs to put him on the same professional, creative and even intellectual with that of his formally, well-trained colleagues.
Some with a formal art education may call their work naïve arts, but their approach is unique. One can work well alone by being disciplined and focused. They plan and learn only what is necessary for the arts they want to create. Creatively, they resist following trends and traditions, and continually experiment to perfect their unfiltered view and vision. Notable self-taught artists include Henri Rousseau, Grandma Moses, Thornton Dial, etc.
The informal art training centres that exist in the area of this study are Africa Studio, Bona Studio, Games Studio, Tuff Studio, Games Studio, Creative Shadow Arts Complex, Bass Bon Studio, Mbari Arts Center, and Asele Institute South-East Nigeria. At times their art styles and techniques are often influenced by their cultural background of the area of the centre which makes them not be versatile in the various styles in arts as compared to the formally trained. There are controversies on artists trained informally in these centres and those that have undergone formal art education. Some people think that those artists trained informally cannot be regarded as artists because they lack the theoretical bases and other technical knowledge involved in informal art education. They are often regarded as artisans and traditional artists. However, for this reason, it is highly imperative to investigate the relevance of this informal arts education to ascertain whether they have a great influence on formal art education and best practices in visual arts.
The last several years have seen a growing resolve among educators and policymakers to assure the place of a solid arts education in the nation's schools. One objective of the ‘No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is to support systemic education reform by strengthening arts education as an integral part of the elementary school and secondary school curriculum. In addition, the legislation aims to ensure that all students meet challenging content standards and challenging state student academic achievement standards in the arts. This calls for a proper assessment of the relevance of informal arts education on formal visual arts education.
Traditional Africa, before the influences of foreign cultures, had a highly organized system of arts education that was very effective in ensuring the continuity of its age-old arts and culture. This was an apprenticeship system that was intended not only to train or produce a creative, skilful person but also to prepare a mind, wholly and dutifully, for all aspects of moralistic living. In other words, the apprenticeship was not divorced from a total education of the talent, mind and personality of the apprentice. But the colonial experience later descended on Nigeria, and it had a deflationary effect on her traditional heritage whose philosophy of culture was immediately and forcefully reordered to look to the West. Consequently, the useful concept of traditional arts education helplessly gave way to a new modern form of arts education. A total method, technique, concept, and function of teaching traditional arts became inevitable.
However, unlike other subjects like mathematics, English language and health science, and so on, arts was not introduced to Nigeria directly by the European colonialists. It was made a part of Nigeria’s modern experience by a single Nigerian through his total assimilation of Western influences. Because of this initial individualization of arts education, the process of im[lantation and development were torturous but steady. They became a solid foundation for the present reality of Nigerian arts education. But arts education in Nigeria would not have been possible without the engrossing influences of Western cultural experience which colonization brought. But even at that, there are numerous artists in Nigeria even after undergoing informal training still went to formal art training in schools. Many of these artists are well known. The issue of concern is to ascertain whether these artists performances are influenced by their informal art training during their formal training. It is also important to find out whether the prior knowledge they gained from informal art training is relevant when they were undergoing formal art education. These are the study information is set to find out.
The informal arts are important in the context of educational reform that emphasizes multiple intelligences. Some educators believe that children learn in many different ways especially in their immediate environment and cultural background. The range of artistic experiences offers visual, kinetic, aural, and spatial means of teaching and learning. These opportunities to use different senses and to be imaginative and mentally flexible can help students develop indispensable skills for a rapidly changing world. The opportunities may account for the evidence that arts learning improve student performance in diverse subjects. It is on this note that is important to assess the relevance of informal arts education in south-east Nigeria to ascertain whether it has a great influence on formal art education.
It is a known fact that unemployment and under-employment are prevalent in Nigeria and these have deepened poverty in the country. The formal art education system is one of the causes of unemployment and that informal education skills could be used to eradicate poverty and thereby achieve the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Nigeria. Most often artists who trained formally do not have the prerequisite to practice on their own. They only look for a white-collar job which is not forthcoming. This may be because of insufficient training in the school or lack of cultural background knowledge on indigenous arts that has been provided in informal art training. Informally trained artists mostly practice on their own without government work. And most of them are doing well.
Informal arts education is one of the essential aspects of education that can be useful in training people on the necessary skills in various art forms especially for those who are not opportune to engage themselves informal art education. Arts education is entrepreneurial and can be of immense help in encouraging self-employment for Nigeria youths thereby eradicating poverty. Some of the informal arts education centres in Nigeria are facing a great problem. This may be a result of a lack of funds and patronage by the populace. Most of the products of these centres are not recognized by the people and are often regarded as roadside and hungry artists. The formally educated artists are not helping matters they do not regard them as artists thereby not involving them when they host exhibitions and other academic activities in arts. These posses a lot of problems for these centres, even though that most of these centres produces a lot of talented artists that matter in the society. This calls for immediate attention to the workability of these centres especially in south-east Nigeria where the activities of these centres are almost collapsing. The problem of this study, therefore, is to ascertain the relevance of informal arts education in southeast Nigeria.
In his more recent work, Bruner (1986, 1990, and 1996) has expanded his theoretical framework to encompass the social and cultural aspects of learning as well as the practice of law. This theory is in line with informal arts education in the area of allowing the student artists to be able to generate his/her artistic knowledge and styles. The studio master or the trainer in most cases does not produce the artwork instead it provides a scaffold for the trainee to be able to accomplish the required task. In this case, the trainer plays a role of a coach. This is typical of constructive teaching which the base of this theory by Bruner is.
The aspect of the constructivist theory that is very crucial in this study is the cognitive Apprenticeship model. Cognitive Apprenticeship is a model of constructivism developed by Collins, Brown and Newman in 1989 and patterned after the traditional apprenticeship model. This helps in refreshing one's memory of the traditional apprenticeship in our locality. If an apprentice goes to a craftsman or a trader to learn his/her trade, he/she begins by observing the master/mistress apply the desired skills in the functional situation/s. After a series of observations, most of the time participatory observations, the master/mistress begins to allow the apprentice to practise the skills under his/her close observation. While supervising, he/she offers help and directs where necessary. The master/mistress also performs tasks that the apprentice is not able to carry out. When the master/mistress is satisfied with the performance of the apprentice, he/she begins to gradually leave the apprentice in control of the shop or trade.
The cognitive apprenticeship model like the traditional apprenticeship, combines observation, expert facilitation or tutelage (coaching) and practice. The four principles of cognitive apprenticeship are the content, method, sequence and sociology (Wilson, Jonassen and Cole, 1993; Humes and Blair, 1994).
What is learnt under the cognitive apprenticeship model is more than just the basic knowledge, skills and values. It includes higher cognitive skills, metacognitive skills and tacit skills. Tacit knowledge is a converted type of knowledge that is usually not stressed in a course but is used by experts in a specific problem situation. Though the experts may not recognize when they use them, their lack creates incompetence. The teaching methods here include modelling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, reflection and exploration. This model is very important in informal art education. This is because the mode of their instruction is basically on apprenticeship mode of instructions. The method of teaching is quite different from the type of method used in a formal art school and therefore, the need to investigate the relevance of informal arts education for best practices in the area of the study.
What is the educational relevance of informal arts education on formal arts education?
What is the influence of arts education on formal arts education?
Can informal and formal arts education co-exist?
In this study, a survey research design was adopted.