The National Standards for Visual Arts Education

The visual arts range from drawing, painting, sculpture, and design, to architecture, film, video, and folk arts. They involve a wide variety of tools, techniques, and processes. The standards for visual art education are structured to recognize that elements from this broad array can be used to accomplish specific educational objectives. For example, drawing can be used as the basis for creative activity, historical and cultural investigation, or analysis, as can any other fields within the visual arts. The standards emphasize student acquisition of the most important and enduring ideas, concepts, issues, dilemmas, and knowledge offered by the visual arts. To meet the standards, students must learn vocabularies and concepts associated with various types of work in the visual arts and must exhibit their competence at various levels in visual, oral, and written form. They will develop new techniques, approaches, and habits for applying knowledge and skills in the visual arts to the world beyond school.



From Kindergarten to fourth grade, young children experiment enthusiastically with art materials and exhibit a sense of joy and excitement as they make and share their artwork with others. Creation is at the heart of this instruction. Students learn to work with various tools, processes, and mediums. They coordinate their hands and minds in explorations of the visual world. Their natural inquisitiveness is promoted, and they learn the value of perseverance. As they move from kindergarten through the early grades, students develop skills of observation to examine the objects and events in their lives. At the same time, they grow in their ability to describe, interpret, evaluate, and respond to work in the visual arts. Through examination of their own work and that of other people, times, and places, students learn to unravel the essence of artwork and to appraise its purpose and value.



  • Understanding and applying techniques and processes through different mediums
    • Know the differences between materials, techniques, and processes
    • Describe how different materials, techniques, and processes cause different responses
    • Use their artwork to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories
    • Use art materials and tools safely and responsibly
  • Using knowledge of structures and functions
    • Know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art to convey ideas
    • Describe how features and organization in a piece can cause different responses
    • Use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas
  • Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
    • Explore and understand prospective content for art pieces
    • Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning
  • Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
    • Understand how the visual arts have historical and cultural value
    • Identify works belonging to particular cultures, times, and places
    • Demonstrate how history, culture, and the visual arts can influence each other in making and studying art
  • Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
    • Understand various purposes for creating works of visual art
    • Describe how experiences influence development of art
    • Understand different responses to specific artworks
  • Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
    • Understand and use similarities and differences between characteristics of visual arts and other art disciplines
    • Identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum



In grades five through eight, students’ visual expressions become more individualistic and imaginative. Students understand that making and responding to works of visual art are inextricably interwoven and that perception, analysis, and critical judgment are inherent to both. Their own art making becomes infused with a variety of images and approaches. They learn that preferences of others may differ from their own and refine the questions that they ask in response to works, which leads them to an appreciation of multiple artistic solutions and interpretations. As they consider examples of visual art within historical contexts, students gain a deeper appreciation of their own values, the values of other people, and the connection of the visual arts to universal human needs, values, and beliefs. As students gain this knowledge and these skills, they improve in their ability to apply the knowledge and skills in the visual arts to their expanding personal worlds.



  • Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
    • Analyze what makes selected techniques, processes, and mediums effective or not in communicating ideas, and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices
    • Enhance communication of their experiences and ideas by taking advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art techniques, processes, and mediums
  • Using knowledge of structures and functions
    • Discuss general effects of visual structures and functions and reflect upon these effects in their work
    • Employ organizational structures and analyze what makes them effective or not in communicating ideas
    • Select and use qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of their ideas
  • Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
    • Integrate visual, spatial, and temporal concepts with content to communicate intended meaning in their works
    • Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning into works
  • Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
    • Know and compare characteristics of works in various eras and cultures
    • Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts
    • Analyze, describe, and demonstrate how factors of time and place (such as climate, resources, ideas, and technology) influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art
  • Reflecting upon and assessing characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
    • Compare multiple purposes for creating works of art
    • Analyze contemporary and historical meanings in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry
    • Describe and compare a variety of individual responses to their own artworks and to artworks from various eras and cultures
  • Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
    • Compare the characteristics of works in two or more art forms that share similar subject matter, historical periods, or cultural context
    • Describe the ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in school are interrelated with the visual arts



In grades nine through twelve, students develop deeper and more profound works of visual art that reflect the maturation of their creative and problem-solving skills. Students understand the multifaceted interplay of different media, styles, forms, techniques, and processes in the creation of their work. Students develop increasing abilities to pose insightful questions about contexts, processes, and criteria for evaluation. They use these questions to examine works with various analytical methods and to express sophisticated ideas about visual relationships using precise terminology. They can reflect on the nature of human involvement in art as a viewer, creator, and participant. Students understand the relationships among art forms and between their own work and that of others. They are able to relate understandings about the historical and cultural contexts of art to situations in contemporary life. These standards provide a framework that promotes the maturing students’ thinking, working, communicating, reasoning, and investigating skills. As they develop greater fluency in communicating in visual, oral, and written form, they must exhibit greater artistic competence through all of these avenues.



  • Understanding and applying techniques and processes
    • Apply techniques and processes within varied mediums with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity such that their intentions are carried out in their works
    • Conceive and create works of visual art that demonstrate an understanding of how the communication of their ideas relates to the techniques, processes, and mediums they use
    • Advanced: initiate, define, and solve challenging visual arts problems independently using intellectual skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation
  • Using knowledge of structures and functions
    • Demonstrate the ability to form and defend judgements about the characteristic and structures to accomplish commercial, personal, communal, or other purposes of art
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of works in terms of organizational structures and functions
    • Create works that use organizational principles and functions to solve specific visual arts problems
    • Advanced: Demonstrate the ability to compare two or more perspectives about the use of organizational principles and functions in artwork and to defend personal evaluations of these perspectives
    • Advanced: Create multiple solutions to specific visual arts problems that demonstrate competence in producing effective relationships between structural choices and artistic functions
  • Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
    • Reflect on how works differ visually, spatially, temporally, and functionally, and describe how these are related to history and culture
    • Apply subjects, symbols, and ideas in their works and use the skills gained to solve problems in daily life
    • Advanced: describe the origins of specific images and explain why they are of value in their work and in the work of others
    • Advanced: evaluate and defend the validity of sources for content and the manner in which subject matter, symbols, and images are used in the student’s works and in significant works by others
  • Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
    • Differentiate between a variety of historical and cultural contexts in therms of characteristics and purpose of works of art
    • Describe the function and explore the meaning of specific art objects within varied cultures, times, and places
    • Analyze relationships of works in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture, justifying conclusions made in the analysis and using such conclusions to inform their own art making
    • Advanced: analyze and interpret artworks for relationships among form, context, purposes, and critical models, showing understanding of the work of critics, historians, aestheticians, and artists
    • Advanced: analyze common characteristics of visual arts evident across time and among cultural/ethnic groups to formulate analyses, evaluations, and interpretations of meaning
  • Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
    • Identify intentions artists, explore the implications of various purposes, and justify their analyses of purposes in particular works
    • Describe meanings of works by analyzing how specific works are created and how they relate to historical and cultural contexts
    • Reflect analytically on various interpretations as a means for understanding and evaluating works of visual art
    • Advanced: correlate responses to works of visual art with various techniques for communication meanings, ideas, attitudes, views, and intentions
  • Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
    • Compare the materials, technologies, media, and processes of the visual arts with those of other arts disciplines as they are used in creation and types of analysis
    • Compare characteristics of visual arts within a particular historical period or style with ideas, issues, or themes in the humanities or sciences
    • Advanced: synthesize the creative and analytical principles and techniques of the visual arts and selected other arts disciplines, the humanities, or the sciences