Art is our inherent quality. Its purpose is to convey 'emotional feelings in all its purity and intensity' (Danvers 2006, p. 78). Art moves our senses by breaking away from the issues of daily existence, and if nursed properly, it can improve our sensory and spiritual consciousness. The dynamic capacity of art can transform negative experiences into positive vibes, thereby enabling us to 'forget the self and through this experience of total immersion, merge with the cosmic self' (Koppman 1999, p. 94; Rollins 2005, p. 5). A special and a timeless moment, during which, 'boundaries blur between me and not-me' (Hart 2003, p. 48). In this out-of-self state, spiritual forces show up in the form of 'art-songs, chant, dances, dramas, costumes, gestures, images etc' (James 2001, p. x). As a result, regardless of the idea behind its creation, an artwork, at all times 'has a spiritual meaning' (London 2007, p. 1479). Nevertheless, how can we explain spirituality? 'What does the spirituality of children look like? How do adults – parents, teachers, and others who work and interact with children – know when children are expressing their spirituality?' (Hyde 2008, p. 13)


By nature, spirituality relates to spirit; the mysterious and inseparable animating force of everything and 'of which all things are composed' (Hart 2003, p. 7). Spirituality is a 'transient experience of intensity, of a larger world and a larger self' (James 2001, p. ix), a creative space 'pertaining to interior life' (Hyde 2008, p. 23), where we try to find the answers of unknown. Spirituality shares a strong bond with all the human faculties and even our modern life and technological advancements could not rid us of this powerful partnership. Because children learn from their surroundings and in every culture, spirituality is present to a certain degree; spiritual tendencies start to show up at a very tender age. Surprisingly, like adults, children are equally spiritual, in fact, at times more aware of their spiritual reality. They live in the present of their experience without any past or future, and these moments thrive in their lives daily (Hyde 2008, p. 15). The reason why childhood is a period of immense spiritual connection, is that, the spirit at this period is pure, and the 'world is sensed through fresh eyes and ears' (Hart 2003, p. 47). When children speak or question something like, where was I when my older brother was born, they are talking spirituality. Researchers studying the spiritual nature of children argue that children use ‘visual representations’ to express their ‘deepest inner thoughts’ (Campbell 2003); therefore it becomes important for people engaged in arts to intervene in their spiritual lives and help them to convey their spirituality. 

Spirituality in art and art education

Spirituality, as we have seen is a 'dramatic shift in experience' (Lipsey 1998, p. 10), and it shares a deep connection with art. Thus, artists and art educators are in demand to provide new insights to the world they live in, locate the origin of creative process, and use reflective thinking to set their works in motion (Efland 1990, p. 51; Davey 2006, p. 11). Although, postmodern world does not lay any standard or system that confines spirituality; nevertheless, 'spirituality is an intrinsic part of human existence,' that can be found in 'moments of acute personal crisis and near-breakdown: in moments of abandonment and anxiety – in the dark shadows of life on the other side of the happy consumer society' (Abbs 2003, p. 29). It is tempting to note that since art is primarily engaged in creation, spirituality in art is the source of creation 'creativity and the creative act' (Hall 2004, p. 145). By establishing a 'connection between the magical unknown and us' or by linking the 'two worlds of the soul and soulless' (Shaban 2007, p. 1493) an artist 'takes the sleeping images of things towards the light' (Abbs 1989, p. 8), and shapes the work of art. Possibly artists like Kandinsky and Hilma ef Klint were aware of this idea, perhaps the reason why Kandinsky suggested that true reality is spiritual, and art belongs to the spiritual life (Kandinsky 1977).


Once the spiritual dimension of art is established and it becomes clear that the spiritual aspect is the foremost constituent of the majority of art and its process; it is strange to know that there is an absence of spiritual concerns in the academic settings of art education. According to Peter London (2007, p. 1479) 'the spiritual intentions of art, is absent in the teaching of art and the preparation of art teachers.' Perhaps the reason for this is the well-established alliance between spirituality and religions. However, it is worth noting that spirituality in art education is not purely a religious activity but a secular enterprise. For example, we can understand the relation between universe and the self in a non-religious way; therefore, '[n]ot everything spiritual must be religious' (Campbell 2005). This means, spirituality cannot be linked 'exclusively with the world religions,' rather its development 'is one of the great tasks of education' (Abbs 2003, p. 39). From this perspective of Abbs, we can safely assume that contemporary explanation of spirituality 'may be used in secular contexts, including art education' (Campbell 2005). If seen independent of religion, spirituality escapes religious implications and portrays itself as 'fundamental to the human condition, to do with the universal search for individual identity, the search for meaning and purpose in life, the values by which to live and the development of fundamental human characteristics' (Hall 2004, p. 144). Should we stop teaching spirituality in art, there is a possibility that children may break away from the origin of creativity, a problem, which could hinder their natural instincts. Since art is a medium with which students can express their spirituality, '[c]reating a classroom where discussion of spiritual issues is encouraged, after careful distinctions are made between religion and spirituality, will help students gain new awareness of their purpose in life' (Campbell 2004,  p. 164).


In view of this, there is enough room to believe that spirituality is at the heart of art. If that is case, then '[w]hat is the heart’s connecting path in art education?' (London 2007, p. 1511) We know art education 'is a realm of thought within which practice exists that concerns what, why and how we come to know about visual culture' (Freedman 2003, p. 8). The enquiry what, why and how, is what spirituality is all about and 'many aspects of art education such as creativity, imagination, making and appreciation are spiritual in nature or contain elements of spirituality' (Hall 2004, p. 145). Therefore, it is important for art education to 'emphasize spirituality in addition to scientific technology,' (Shaban 2007, p. 1493) and 'cultivate an awareness that is possible to transform lives' (London 2007, p. 1512).

Spirituality and the artist-teacher

As noted above, spirituality has received less attention in art education; nevertheless, this does not mean that artist-teachers might not work on this important aspect of art. Surprisingly, nowadays '[s]pirituality is becoming an increasingly significant aspect of contemporary art education theory' (Campbell 2005). The subject invites artist-teachers to introspect there teaching methodology and create opportunities for the students to experiment (Campbell 2004, p. 163). As a result, artist-teachers have the responsibility to awaken and develop the consciousness of their students by informing them about the eternal relationship between art and the spiritual, a creative impulse that gives impetus to the origin of artworks. If the spiritual element is taken out of 'education in and about art', the very nature of education would leave the 'innermost essential features of being human, the purposes of art, and the ultimate hope of educating yet another generation' (London 2007, p. 1483). This position enables artist-teachers 'to ask questions and discuss human problems they and their students experience every day' (Campbell 2006). To explain the concept of spirituality in the class, an artist-teacher has to be versatile. A good idea of spirituality, spirituality in art and art education, would 'stimulate, motivate, and induct students into the world of art' (Hickman 2004, p. 1). In order to connect 'spirituality in art and spirituality in teaching' an artist-teacher needs to enquire, 'into how spirituality develops within artist and ultimately how it is manifested in teaching' (Campbell 2005). Therefore, a clear idea about the kind of art required from the students could correspond to the structured norms of art education including 'critical appreciation, knowledge of history, and theory' (Boughton et. al 1996, p. 33). In addition, teachers may need to 'have some conception of the thought that necessarily belongs with the medium (spirituality) itself' (Harrison 1997, p. 8; Hickman 2004, p. xvii).


This means, when engaging with children, the artist-teacher has to develop the child-within, 'child of a similar age,' and then establish a relationship with the outside children. The insight will allow teachers to 'empathize with children, to play with them, and to consider options for guiding and teaching them' (Myers 1997, p. 8-9). Once the playable relation and understanding is achieved, the artist-teacher can encourage pupils to contemplate the spiritual 'as it unveils itself within themselves' (Efland 1990, p. 119), and gradually introduce them to the study of nature. Followed by the lessons on 'how to see,' (Kress 2001) educators might advance with training an 'incorrect eye to trained eye to knowing eye' (Sullivan 2010, p. 15). This knowing eye 'is an achievement' that aids to make 'sense of the world' (Eisner 2002, p. 21), differentiate between different realities of the world and form concepts. A clear concept will help children to draw the complex messages of spirituality emancipating from the minds and the resultant artwork will be the 'subject point of an artistic truth' (Atkinson 2011, p. 120). Interestingly, spirituality is an ideal way to approach truth and if child-artists were able to connect successfully to the realm of spirituality, their artworks would like the language-author idea of Barthes speak about its origin and not the maker (Barthes 1997, p. 143).