Who are artistically gifted students?
There is probably more we don't know about artistically gifted students than what we do know. That’s because we have a very small body of research and few identification processes and education programs for the artistically gifted. However, a broad definition of artistic giftedness was developed by the U.S. Department of Education in 1972, which identified those students as those "who give evidence of high achievement capability" and "who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities."
This definition is still in effect today in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. What little is known about artistically gifted kids is underscored by the fact that in 1993 the U.S. Department of Education identified artistically gifted children and teens as an underserved population, along with students with disabilities and students whose first language is other than English.
What is artistic giftedness?
In academic literature and research, there are a number of definitions and models identifying artistic giftedness. One of the most influential has been Joseph Renzulli's "revolving door" model (1986). Renzulli maintains giftedness has three ingredients—task commitment, creativity, and above-average ability. Task commitment can also be described as motivation, perseverance, or hard work. Creativity is original thinking and the capacity to break free of accepted conventions. Above-average ability is the ability to successfully acquire a particular and specialized skill.
The Renzulli's model requires all of these elements to be present in a student, although not necessarily equally. One element may dominate and all the elements will change over time. A student's context—their family, school, community, and personality—will all impact the changes and growth in these three elements.
How can parents and teachers offer support?
Sandra I. Kay (2008) recommends parents and educators can take on three roles in supporting their artistically gifted students:
• Be an appreciator. Find opportunities to enjoy the arts together or with others. It is crucial for artistically gifted students to have opportunities to see the work of more accomplished artists. Be sure to find opportunities to appreciate your student's own artistic endeavors.
• Be a curator, nurture your student. Date your student's artwork to chart his/her artistic development. Archive programs and photographs from performances. Encourage them to keep a journal to record large and small milestones in their development as an artist. When you talk together, emphasize the process of making art and what was learned from that.
• Be your student's advocate. Gifted education, particularly gifted education in the arts, is an increasingly rare offering. And the typical arts education offerings in schools are aimed at general enrichment of all students rather than the development of artistically gifted kids (Rader, 1993). Advocate for differentiation in arts education for high-ability students. Remember that giftedness in the arts is no less meaningful than academic giftedness. Seek out mentoring opportunities for your young artist. Professional artists can offer meaningful mentoring experiences to young gifted artists (Chin & Harrington, 2009).
Additionally, parents and teachers can help their student find and connect with other artistic peers, both in and out of school. After-school and summer programs help kids find like-minded peers. These relationships are necessary for social/emotional well-being as well as artistic growth.