Fine Arts Learning Standards | Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

Fine Arts Learning Standards

Fine Arts

Program Purpose

The purpose of the Fine Arts Program at IMSA is to enable each student to develop a fundamental knowledge of the aesthetic, intellectual, emotional, cultural, and social aspects of artistic perception, valuing, creation, interpretation and evaluation. Students are challenged to explore the content and meaning of the arts beyond facts, symbolic representation and technical proficiency. Through study of the natural and expressive elements of the arts, students understand feelings at a deeper level and connect the emotive and cognitive aspects of learning.

The Fine Arts are woven into the fabric of human existence and remain an enriching part of student’s lives. Through the Fine Arts, students encounter relationships to the other disciplines of thought.

Team Goals

The goals of the Fine Arts Team are:

  • Provide an environment that encourages the development of student’s aesthetic awareness and skills.
  • Provide opportunities in which students are challenged to develop and demonstrate the processes and proficiencies involved with creation, interpretation and learning in art and music.

Unifying Concepts and Processes

The essentials of arts education at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy® are built upon a foundation of five, central overarching concepts. All five concepts can be found in every fine arts course offered at the Academy, They serve to illustrate and illuminate content, ideas and practices in the classroom as well as the curriculum.

The five overarching concepts are:

Creation and Creativity

The concept of creation, as it is used in fine arts courses, is to produce, or to make art. It is the generation of an idea, process, plan, or design. It can also be the process of production, composition, or performance. Creation and creativity can also mean the recreating or remaking of an already existing idea, design, or work. Examples of recreation might include an interpretation of a play or musical score, or an improvisation, or variations on a theme, subject, phrase, or idea. Creativity comes into play when a student adds his or her individual elaboration, flexibility, fluency, knowledge, experience, originality and /or personality to their work, during the act of creating or producing.


Aesthetics are used when exploring and examining art in order to experience and reveal reasons that may be proposed to accept its beauty, meaning, value, intrinsic worth, intent, and emotional content. A students’ aesthetic capability and acuity is established and developed via the perception, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of a particular work’s expressive elements (line, melody, form, texture, design, etc.). Aesthetic experiences can be present both in the creation as well as perception of works of art. When students develop an aesthetic capability and acuity, they are developing habits of mind as well as habits of soul.


To appreciate a work of art is to enjoy it, and celebrate its worth. In fine arts courses, appreciation of a particular work is an analysis to reveal its critical attributes, including its intrinsic worth, and the artist’s decision-making that contributes to the effectiveness of conveying meaning and intent. Appreciation also includes having a general knowledge of the historical and contextual background of the work. Finally, appreciation includes an ability to evaluate the construction of a work to identify its level of artistry and craftsmanship.

Culture and style

The concepts of culture, and more importantly, style, play an essential role in determining a work of art’s historical background and authenticity. In analysis, production, and consumption, students are asked to formulate stylistic and cultural judgments about a work. In art, these judgments become a part of the overall evaluation or critique of a work. In music or drama, these judgments might be used in the stylistic interpretation of a score or play.


The fine arts and art are important within the context of everyday life, as well as throughout history. Patterns of thought, habits of mind, and the great ah-hahs are either congruent or at the very least similar in all disciplines. These connections are revealed by work in class and in the concert hall.


Language is a system of symbols which makes meaning, a system by which one talks and writes about the world. Language gives shape to perception, and allows communication, self-knowledge, and understanding of the world. Language reflects larger philosophical considerations having to do with the meaning of experience and of ideas. As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein has said, The limits of our language mean the limits of our world.

Instruction in the uses of language includes the development of an understanding of precision and ambiguity, as well as consideration of form. It involves learning the difference between reading for information and reading for enjoyment. By lingering over a text long enough to discover its meanings and richness, long enough to see the connections between the text and one’s personal life, an individual moves beyond simplistic, either-or thinking. Instruction in the uses of language means learning how to ask defining questions; and finding and using evidence to support argument. These language processes all contribute to cognitive development.


The concept of vision includes observation, perspective, interpretation, and insight. Close observation (looking and looking again) is necessary in order to form hypotheses. Observation and hypothesis formation play critical roles in the humanities and in the sciences. By developing a sense of perspective, one learns to consider the ways in which previous experience and personality shape what one sees. This sense of self as observer allows one to become more aware of the process of seeing. It leads one to consider the idea that in both science and literature, the observer changes the thing observed. Awareness of vision includes training in interpretation and insight; and, it is through interpretation and insight that one learns not only what constitutes a problem of meaning, but also how to recognize and define questions that pursue problems of meaning in a text.


Identity is the concept of the self. In order to understand identity, one must consider the ways in which the self is formed by moral and ethical choices, and the ways in which habits of mind structure an individual’s thoughts. To paraphrase Ernst Cassirer, in An Essay on Man, human beings live in a symbolic universe…They have so enveloped themselves in linguistic forms, in artistic images, in mythical symbols or religious rites that they cannot see or know anything, except by the interposition of this artificial medium.

In the process of considering their own identities, students tell their stories in writing; they imagine themselves as the readers an author addresses, trying those identities on for size. They become more conscious of their own processes of reading, writing, perceiving, and thinking. They come to know themselves in those endeavors and to take responsibility for their own learning, thereby identifying themselves as members in a community of interpretation: as sharers of inquiry, as communicators of discovery, as collaborators in investigation.


Tradition is a coherent system of shared perceptions, ideas, and symbols of reality. Traditions mediate both individual and societal beliefs about the nature of the world. Tradition includes conscious and unconscious elements–what Alfred Lord Whitehead calls “the secretive, imaginative background of thought.” Individuals within given cultures share traditions that make the communication of perceptions, ideas, and understandings both possible and significant.

The study of tradition enlarges the frame in which identity and myth are considered. It encourages the exploration of alternative traditions and alternative human experiences. In such an exploration, debate is inevitable. Debates include issues of gender, and ethnic and racial diversity.

Learning StandardsThe following IMSA Fine Arts Learning Standards embody the curricular essentials present in Academy fine arts courses. These essentials and expectations are congruent with selected Illinois State Learning Standards, the National Visual Arts Standards (purpose, goals, key concepts, and standards), Music Educators National Conference, and Goals 2000 Content Standards in Music Education. These learning standards were developed to embrace the IMSA Standards of Significant Learning as they pertain to learning in the Fine and Performing Arts.

Through the development of their skills and understandings in art or music, students studying tIne arts at IMSA will be able to:

  1. Experience different kinds of art or music.
  2. Understand the purpose of tools, techniques, and terminology used in the creative and productive process.
  3. Effectively use appropriate materials, processes and techniques to create, perform and interpret art or music.
  4. Understand the aesthetic components of art or music and develop aesthetic awareness.
  5. Develop historical and cultural perspectives in art or music.
  6. Develop skills necessary to evaluate art or music.

Citation Format
IMSA Fine Arts Learning Standards are cross-referenced as follows:

  • IMSA’s Standards of Significant Learning [SSL-III.B]
  • Illinois State Learning Standards [IL-27.A.5]
  • Music Educators National Conference Content Standards [MENC-6]
  • National Visual Arts Standards [NVA-2.B]

Through the development of their skills and understandings in art or music, students studying fine arts at IMSA will be able to:

A. Experience different kinds of art or music.

A.1 Accurately recognize the principles and practices of art or musical composition. [MENC-4]
A.2 Examine and analyze sounds, images, and ideas. [IL-25.4; MENC-6]
A.3 Use a variety of senses to experience art or music. [IL-25.B.4; MENC-6]
A.4 Examine professional created art or music. [IL-25A.5; MENC-6,7; NVA-5.C]

B. Understand the tools, techniques, and terminology used in the creative and productive process.

B.1 Select and accurately use appropriate artistic, stylistic, and interpretive terminology. [IL-26.A.4; MENC-4]
B.2 Analyze and critique the effect of materials, techniques, and processes on the production and interpretation of art or music. [IL-25.B.4; MENC-6,7]
B.3 Recognize the appropriate applications of materials, techniques and tools. [IL-26.B.4; MENC-4; NVA-1.4]

C. Effectively use appropriate materials, processes and techniques to create, perform and interpret art or music.

C.1 Select and apply appropriate materials, techniques and processes to the production of a work of art or music. [IL-26.A.3, 4; MENC-3,4,5; NVA-1.A]
C.2 Develop automaticity in skills, concepts, and processes that support and enable complex creative thought. [SSL-1.A; MENC-6; NVA-1.A]
C.3 Work in an environment that is safe and healthy, and encourages self-confidence and responsible experimentation. [IL-26.B.2c.d; MENC-1,2,4]
C.4 Employ artistry and craftsmanship in the production of art or music. [IL-25.A.4; MENC-7; NVA-1.4]

D. Understand the aesthetic components of art or music and develop aesthetic awareness.

D.1 Develop informed emotional responses to works or art or music. [IL-25.A.4; MENC-6,7; NVA-5.A, B, C, E]
D.2 Analyze and describe the role, meaning, and value of a work of art or music. [IL-25.A.4, 5; MENC-6, 8; NVA-2.D, 5.B]
D.3 Discover unique and expressive qualities inherent in art or music. [SSL-IV.D; IL-25.A.5; MENC-6. 7, 8, 9]
D.4 Demonstrate reflective thinking in considering personal responses to art or music. [IL-26.B.4c.d; MENC-4]
D.5 Apply elements of design and expression. ..[IL-26.A.5; MENC-3,4; NVA-1.A]

E. Develop historical and cultural perspectives in art or music.

E.1 Examine and analyze the common characteristics of art or music of various cultures and multi-ethnic groups. IL-27.B.4a.; MENC-9; NVA-3.A]
E.2 Observe and study art or music in relation to the cultural context in which it was produced. [IL-27.B.4b; MENC-9; NVA-4.B]
E.3 Compare and contrast the characteristics of art or music through representative works from various historical and cultural periods. [IL-27.B.4a.; MENC-9; NVA-4.E]
E.4 Obtain a basic awareness of how social, economic, philosophical, political and geographical factors influence historic and stylistic techniques and practices in the production of works of art or music. [IL-27.B.5; MENC-8, 9]
E.5 Recreate or interpret with stylistic or historical authenticity [IL-27.A.4a]

F. Develop skills necessary to evaluate art or music.

F.1 Understand and apply the continuous cycle of design – process – production – reflection – evaluation. [IL-25A.4.5; MENC-6,7; NVA-4.C, 5]
F.2 Employ critical thinking skills during the evaluative process. [IL-26.B.4c,d; MENC-4]
F.3 Demonstrate that criticism and evaluation are essential components of the learning process. [IL-26.B.5; MENC-4]
F.4 Utilize reflective practice as a tool for self-assessment.. . [IL-25.A.5; MENC-3,4; NVA-1.4]
F.5 Identify and characterize the composing elements of dynamic and organic wholes, structures, and systems in works of art. [SSL-IV.C; MENC-6]

Correlations to Other Standards

IMSA’s Standards of Significant Learning
IMSA’s Fine Arts Learning Standards

I. Developing The tools of Thought

A. Develop automaticity in skills, concepts, and processes that support and enable complex thought. C.6
B. Construct questions which further understanding, forge connections, and deepen meaning. H.3
C. Precisely observe phenomena and accurately record findings. A.10, G.4
D. Evaluate the soundness and relevance of information and reasoning. A.11, G.6

II. Thinking About Thinking

A. Identify unexamined cultural, historical, and personal assumptions and misconceptions that impede and skew inquiry.
B. Find and analyze ambiguities inherent within any set of textual, social, physical, or theoretical circumstances.

III.Extending and Integrating Thought

A. Use appropriate technologies as extensions of the mind.
B. Recognize, pursue, and explain substantive connections within and among areas of knowledge. H.4
C. Recreate the beautiful conceptions that give coherence to structures of thought. B.5

IV. Expressing and Evaluating Constructs

A. Construct and support judgements based on evidence. G.7
B. Write and speak with power, economy, and elegance. G.8
C. Identify and characterize the composing elements of dynamic and organic wholes, structures, and systems. C.7
D. Develop an aesthetic awareness and capability. D.7

V. Thinking and Acting with Others

A. Identify, understand, and accept the rights and responsibilities of belonging to a diverse community I.9
B. Make reasoned decisions which reflect ethical standards, and act in accordance with those decisions. I.10
C. Establish and commit to a personal wellness lifestyle in the development of the whole self.

Learning Standards Correlation

The table that follows details the correlation of IMSA Learning Standards to our SSLs, to appropriate Illinois Learning Standards, and other standards valued in the Fine Arts learning area.

Learning Standards Correlation

Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy® (1994). Standards of significant learning. Aurora, IL: IMSA.
Illinois State Board of Education (1997). Illinois learning standards. Springfield, IL: ISBE.
Music Educators National Conference (1996). National content standards in music education. Reston, VA: IMEA.
National Art Education Association (1994). The national visual arts standards. Reston, VA: NAEA.