Everyone’s Art Time Should be Cut

That’s right, I said it, your art class time should be cut! Before you click away, hear me out!

This issue is perhaps one of the most anger-inducing issues art teachers are facing right now. As people try and squeeze out the arts in favor of more math and reading time, we’re left defending what we do in our classrooms. Often, the “middle ground” is that art isn’t eliminated outright, but precious minutes are shaved off of each class.

If this is your situation, I want to help you see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I want to show you how to make the most of your changing schedule, and maybe, even see how you can benefit from it.

My Personal Experience

Three years ago, each of my art classes was cut by 15 minutes.

As someone who was always working hard up until the very last minute, this seemed to be a truly devastating decision being thrust upon the teachers in my district. Looking back, I’ll admit that perhaps having my art time slashed was the single most important thing to impact the way I teach.

When our art time was cut, we were told it wasn’t about how much time you have with students; it was about what you do during that time. In other words, it was all about how you maximize the time.

To be honest, at first, I thought that was ridiculous. I laughed. I was angry. I was confused. Now, I believe that message. Here’s why.

Now, I appreciate every single second I have with my students. I don’t fluff up lessons or allow students to free draw for 50 minutes because they rushed through the lesson. Before, when you walked into my art room, kids were all over the map. Today, they’re much more focused.

My current lessons are planned to the minute. If we have ten extra minutes, I squeeze in a new concept or introduce the next lesson. Before, I would just hold off introducing new things until the next class. It sent the message that it was ok just to hang out. My room felt more like indoor recess than a visual arts studio.

My students now have a different perspective on what it means to come to the art room. They don’t dare waste their art time, and I promise them I won’t waste theirs. Instruction is brief, so they can get right to work. They take art more seriously now, which helps a lot with management issues.

Finally, I can be more consistent with my curriculum. I know exactly how much time I have to teach concepts, and I stay on track because we can’t afford to lose any time.

So, do I want my time back? OF COURSE, ARE YOU KIDDING?

Once you lose time, it’s very difficult to get it back. But now, if I got back that precious extra time with students, I would use it much differently. My curriculum and day-to-day teaching would both be more focused. I would be sure to use every minute to present a balanced, spiraling curriculum (rather than spend two months on Monet just because I like him.) I could use the time to find more quality, creative ways to advocate for my program.

I truly hope your art time is never cut. But, I hope I’ve helped you see that you should never take the time with your students for granted! Your time with students should be filled with quality art projects, critiques, assessments and conversations surrounding art.  At the very least, I want you to know there is hope, and you can get through this. You are not alone!

Tell me about the time your students spend in art.

How have you coped with cuts?

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Leitha

    My classes were cut by 15 minutes this year.  It took a bit of rearranging in how I approach delivering  lessons, but I have to agree with you that every minute is valuable.  I still wish I had that 15 minutes back but the kids do appreciate their art time more.

    • It’s amazing to me how many of us have experienced cuts! Astounding!

  • Lamcm

    When the time in my class was cut… I was unable to cover as many things but I have learned how to get more bang for the bucks by  incorporating more concepts together into one project.  I may not be doing as many things but I am reaching the standards at every grade level and that is the bottom line.  You bet, I would love the time back… but I am just glad that in my school district, we have an art teacher in every school for the 1st time in 27 years.  Woohoo!

  • Clara Crosby

    When my time in art class was cut again, I became even more thoroughly convinced that the way I wanted to teach was using Choice-Based Art Education. also called TAB or Teaching  for Artistic Behavior. 

  • Mrs Red

    Hi from sunny Queensland, Australia here. Our Government doesn’t even have a budget for art classes in primary school (P-7) and this is why I became a mobile art teacher. I rent a studio space and hold classes on week-ends and after school as well as teach an hour of art twice a week to 30 kids at a local school, before school starts at 9am. They love it, I love it and because their parents pay for this, it becomes a dream class because they WANT to be there. In the end its a win/win.

    • Mrs. Red,
      This sounds like a great way to supplement what isn’t being offered in the schools. It’s amazing how much more parents and kids care when they are paying for something. When my colleague did an art camp the parents were so concerned about how she would handle all of the students. She said to them “I have more students in my classes during a normal school day” – It’s like they didn’t get it. Good for you!

      • Vivian

         What’s a good way to get a summer camp for my students funded, any ideas? I would love to create a summer art experience for my students!

        • Could you rent out a room from your school, charge a fee, and get some interesting supples? What about your park and Rec program?
          Jessica Balsley

  • My question is, what do you do with the students who are finished early? I mean… like… at least 25 minutes earlier than everyone else? There’s only so much you can ask them to change because let’s face it, some students just don’t enjoy art as much as others… so they are the rushers- they have been since Kindergarten and most likely will always be one of the first to finish early. I find it difficult to explain to them the next lesson or concept because I’ll just have to repeat it all over again, maybe 20+ times if I had to do it for every student that finished at their pace. I hate to have them do a texture rubbing for 25 minutes (and other ‘done pile stuff’)… but I guess I’m unsure of how to make sure I’m offering quality art to every single student of every single minute. 

    • Oh, by no means is the system perfect, but I have significantly LESS students with a great deal of free time. I have extension activities or a cupboard with activities and blocks the kids can do, it’s just rare and something I’ll always be working on! I do a ton of overlap days, where students who are not done can work while I talk about the new lesson. I pull their work, and allow them to be back at the tables while everyone else is on the carpet. This also works well. I like to move everyone onto the next thing together, it’s just instead of waiting on everyone, I move on earlier, and let the others catch up.. Make sense? Hope it helps!

      • remember the shadows…

         I enjoyed teaching the Elements of Art.   Students are often asked to reflect on which of the seven were used in their work.
        There are shelves of other projects to try… wire, clay, wax transfer…
        I may give an introduction for the lesson but it is up to the student to interpret what they heard and how they will physically complete the lesson.  They also always have access to their portfolio (large 13×10″ White Envelope)  Ideas, samples of previous starts are within.

    • Vivian

       I give those students who finish early tips to make their work look more complete if needed. If they are sincerely done (as some will rush), I allow them to free draw, help another student with certain parts of the project, or help sharpen pencils, collect things or pass other work out.   I don’t have space to have an area to designate to when finished with your work, though, I plan to create a small one and see how it served my classes next year and what rules I need to make for it. I’ve seen students work super fast and not complete project objectives in order to get to the art worksheets, so I guess that deterred me from keeping up with it. They do love an opportunity to free draw too, so it’s fun to see what’s on their minds. I think I may have ideas list for ideas to draw about.

    • Leitha

      I teach from a DBAE model, so all of my lesson focus around an artist and a stlye of art.  I have created extension activites based on each artist.  So I put out those games, puzzles, books, and other smaller extension activites (art) based on that artist for students who finish early.  Although I always try to get a student to look at their work and suggest ideas for them to try and go a bit further.

    • Kstroberg

      I got this idea from another art teacher.  I give out speeding tickets!  I explain at the beginning of the year that if I feel that the student is rushing through to get done, or doing sloppy work to get done, they get a speeding ticket.  They have to attach it to their artwork, sign it, and write how they will improve.  I also give some students a writing assignment.  That ususally does the trick for those speeders!  If you have a student that is not doing sloppy work but is so focused that they get done early, you might have a sketch folder for them.  I make sketch folders for my kiddos 1st to 6th grade, I put in interesting pages from free worksheet sites, sketchbook questions or ideas and blank paper.  My students know what to do and will automatically pull them out when finished.  At the end of the year they bring them home.  This works really well, hope that helps!

      • I could see using speeding tickets, craftsmanship tickets, voice level tickets…etc. Love it.

  • How long were your classes before? I really think that I would say “what’s the point?” if my class time was cut in half.  My first year of teaching, I taught 11, 30 minute classes back to back, 7 days. 30 minutes was a ridiculously small amount of time, but it made me appreciate the 40 and 45 minute classes I’ve had since then. Less than 30 minutes would be a waste of time. With messy materials, you would spend half of your time cleaning. Right now, I have 7-45 minute classes and a 30 minute Pre-k class. Honestly, 30 minutes is perfect for pre-k. 

    • Angela,
      2, 45 minute classes turned into 1, 45 minute class.
      I agree, less than 30 minutes is too short, but I’ve seen it happen. We have Kindergarten for 40 minutes and that works well, too.

  • Nielsengrogan

    The students do not have the time to become engaged in what they are doing. I work where 25 kids are learning sewing one teacher it is crazy.

  • Kim Hyman

    I am presently engaged in research on the value of the arts to the cirriculum and child development. This thread has opened a whole new line of thought foe me!


  • ahhh  I hope administrators in my district never see this! I LOVE our hour of art. I also have a few minutes at the end of each class (especially the kinders) and I use the ten minutes to read a book (literacy connection) while a few clean up. I go to the library and take out about 30 books each month so that they relate to lessons and are readily available. It cuts down on chaos to have the last 10 minutes of each class as down time. Sometimes we bring our artwork to the carpet and a few students get “critique” in the nicest sense of the word:)  I used to try to fill up every second, but I am noticing a difference in behavior when I slow things down instead of speed them up (mostly during clean up.) I have a few classes that are just 1/2 an hour . I have learned the hard way not to do messy projects in such a short time. I feel like we can have a complete cycle with an hour, initiation, creation,  closure and clean up. 

  • Thank you so much for this insight!  I’m a first year art teacher at the K-2 level.  I have a full hour with 1st and 2nd grade students and 40 minutes with kindergarten.  Just this year our school has started RTI based reading and math  intervention “camps.”  Adding this time to the schedule has caused many scheduling issues for me so that I am shaving minutes off of a class here and there.  I’ve even had to cut one class into two 30 minute sessions…yikes!  I’ve found myself pushing for shorter art classes across the board so that there is more room in the daily schedule.  I can’t tell you how many crazy looks I’ve gotten when I suggest that!  The tough reality is that teachers have less time in their day, so prep time becomes even more precious.  At the end of the day something has to give!  Thank you again…your thoughts have made me feel much more vindicated in my crazy suggestion to have shorter classes! 

  • Cerretda

    We have always had 50 minute classes but run on a rotation system where the students are regrouped so that related arts classes are larger.  Nobody is talking about cutting positions for next year or time.  However, the idea of increasing our class size is being thought of as an “innovative & creative” idea.  I’m beginning to think I’ve been on this hamster wheel too long!  Everything old becomes new again in education!

    • Large class sizes are also not fun. Some of mine are pushing 30!

  • Vivian

    I teach in the cafeteria at my school. I have my own tables (apart from the lunch tables) and I have a nice nook where I teach, though no walls, and lots of noise from gym class above, or students outside.  I work with small groups in the morning with the 4th graders and then with Kindergarteners in their classrooms. I then have prep/lunch and then I have cafeteria duty for 3- 20 minute periods. After each period of duty, I then teach art for 35 minutes for 3 classes in the afternoon.  While, I like working with small groups in the a.m. I have been on and off frustrated at the amount of lunch duty time I need to cover per day, which equals 1 hour and 15 minutes per day. I don’t usually like to think of myself as the prep. time teacher, but with this schedule, it’s been hard not to. I am in a progressive city school, where test scores are most important and we have been a models school in the acceleration of scores. While it’s exciting to be a part of a school that is doing well, as others in the city are shutting down, it’s certainly demanding of being flexible, as our schedules are constantly being changed last minute.

  • Lisa

    Hi from Long Island New York, USA…  I am living this discussion…but not in the cut time from each class scenario…but cut Art classes from the dailty schedule and make Art & Music into a every 6 Day Cycle.  The 6 Day Cycle is so difficult on my young Artists, as the there are really 8 days (including weekends) or 14 days (if there is an Assembly during Art class)  and/or 21 Days (if a student is absent and an Assembly) and the scenario goes on and on.  We went from seeing children 40 x’s to 25-22 x’s a year.  So Honestly…with all respect….CUTTING ART is NOT A GOOD THING.  REALLY….this is about building Young Artistic minds, Art Appreciation and Creativity….and not about you having PRODUCTIVE and EFFICIENT Art lessons.  We know how to manage our days and be Productive with our Art lessons.  FREE ART time at the end of class isn’t just FILLER time…but valuable creative time, Enrichment time…and DIFFERENTIATED Instruction time for those students that need Adaptive Art or more time to finish.  My Special Ed. children always had a sense of accomplishment when they had the extra end of class time to finish…while their friends went onto next project.  Now…they feel so let down.  I’m seeing many unfinished artworks this year and it’s heartbreaking.  I don’t want to water down the Art lessons…but this might be the case.  I’m also cutting corners….like I give them a tracer of Cat shape if we’re doing Laural Burch cats….when I know we can’t devote time to drawing shapes.  The end result of Burch Cats is making Patterns and Design Creativity.  So….it’s now just Efficiency I’m looking to build in my students.  I think your point is Good…but again…It’s about building Art Creativity not about you having Productive Lessons.  Just my thoughts….Lisa 

    • Thanks for your thoughts! If you read this carefully, I really don’t want your art time to be cut. I hate that my time was cut. I am just trying to show you the positives if it does happen and help people appreciate better what they have!!
      Jessica Balsley

      • Lisa

        Got It Jessica!  Just so touchy about this topic…and see RED every time I hear yet another topic on cutting Art classes.  It’s too difficult to hear Art Teachers discuss.
        Love your ideas…Thanks!

  • Mcbartos

    My art classes have been cut as well to make room for 90 min state mandated reading blocks, as well as daily school wide math tutoringwhich includes everyone from janitors to the principal. We used to have 55 min. Now we have 45. I used to see all my morning classes 2 and 3 times a week now I see only one of them 2 and 3 times a week. The rest I see once a week. It’s definitely been a squeeze to get everything in. I have noticed though that I too have been teaching “content specific instead of fluff” if you will. Really getting to the main stuff quickly since I see them so little. Since I have been doing this I have noticed that the classes I see 2 and 3 times a week are REALLY going to town with concepts and ideas. So it’s kinda cool to see how that is working.

  • BluBlue

    At my school all art classes are 30 minutes long, but the culture of the school allows teachers to come usually 5 minutes late, and I have to transport the kids to the other end of school.  So most classes end up being 25 minutes, some even 20 minutes. The most frustrating thing about it is that it is a rather well off school system, and they have the resources to support the arts but don’t…

  • Rlviers

    My distric didn’t threaten to cut time, they tried to cut All Specialists in the k-8. Thankfully it didn’t happen. States are looking to California, where the classroom teacher does art once a week and teacher take their planning after school.

  • Acwallace98

    All the cuts that have been happening are soo scarry! Right now our district is ok, but you never know especially teaching art! That’s what gets to me the most because art is one of the first to go. These kids need it so badd!

  • Jmurray_99

    Hello, I am dealing with not a time cut but losing my art room.  My coworker has lost her room to to regular classroom. We are now placed in the “garage” room in a corner downstairs and sharing it!!!!!!!!! That means 60+ kids in a no so ideal classroom with two teachers.  It has been a devasting blow to our enthusiasm.  And we keep getting the same old…”you can do what you were doing before nothing changes!!!” Well, it does and quite frankly we are so upset and angry. I am venting at the moment. My main question to you is how do you keep from allowing the “down time” in between projects. Like you stated free drawing and things like that. When I had my own room it was next to impossible to move on to something because there were so many still working on the first project. How can you introduce a new concept when others are still concentrating on the last concept. Just want to know how you are doing this without losing those who are not finished with the intitial project. Could you please detail to me your process.  I would love to know your ways.  I too hate the loss of control and seriousness but the ones who have rushted through or actually did a good job just work quicker. Please share! Thanks!

    • Hello!

      I am sorry you have lost your room. That is the worst feeling and makes you feel unvalued.
      I think my process works because I break the lesson down into mini-goals for each 45 minute class period. If a kid finishes my mini-goal for the 45 minutes they might get 10 minutes of free time (just a few kids). Then, they start with the next goal the next class period. By breaking up the free time at the end of each class period and not allowing them to move on, everyone finishes at about the same time. I allow the slow kids to take theirs home (sometimes) if they aren’t done on the last class, i tell them it’s their responsibility (older kids) to get it done, just like the regular classroom. Unfortunately for the younger kids the unfinished work gets set aside and i pull it out whenever I can. Sounds mean, but when you see kids 30 hours a YEAR and have monthly Power standard you must meet per district curriculum (I like to call it rushing creativity, hahaha!) I don’t have much of a choice.
      I also remind kids while working where about they should be in the project, and what their goal can be for the next half hour. The verbal reminders help them to not get sidetracked. If a kid is not getting anything done, they can work by themselves.
      Does it always work perfectly, NO! But it seems to keep kids on track pretty well for me. It’s pretty structured and not the way I’d always like to teach, but I must work within the parameters of my district that are given to me. In life, kids will have deadlines, and won’t have all the time in the world. I think it’s a good life skill, to some extent. I hope it helps!

      • Jmurray_99

        Thank you Jessica for responding. Going to have to rething everything! The good thing is my co-worker who also lost her art room is a great person and we should be able to work well together. Hopefully it is for one year like they said but i am not holding my breath! Thanks again.

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  • Susie Belzer

    Our district in Wisconsin is going through this right now.  Currently I see my K-5th grade students once per week (60-70 minutes).  We have one art teacher per building.  I know that this was a ‘dream’ job scenario, but now it’s all about to change.  Next year they are proposing going to a 4 day rotation with art once every 4 days for only 45 minutes.  It’s a big cut in minutes and I find myself worried about our program, the curriculum and if I’ll be full time anymore… :(  Scary.  Glad to see this topic being addressed on here.

  • Mary-Ann

    You were cut by 15 minutes? So how long are your art classes now and how many times a week do you meet? Thanks!

  • Jessica

    I have experienced teaching students k-5 1 hour for art to 40 minutes of art and now 30 minutes of art. I can not say how important is to have more time, students specially students with disabilities need assistance with variation and transitional time. In one hour for art you can do much more than in 30 minutes. Most of the time I feel like I am managing an art marathon. Yes we get creative, we assess, we critique,but they go home with less projects. This is :-( for students and teachers. You can have art clubs, summer camp, but this is only for a handful of students.

  • Ted Edinger

    When I first started at my school…there were two art teachers. However, our enrollment went down….so they cut the other position. I use to LOVE having my kids 2 hrs a week. I did not realize how much of a blessing it was till we went to one class a week(and I have two classes I only see every other week now). With having them two hours a week..I could get so much farther. Procedures & expectations were cemented in their minds….plus sure exposure and opportunity!!

  • Rich
  • Debra Strandberg

    Art Teacher for 4th, 5th, 6th graders in Texas. I am lucky enough to see my students every day of the week, but only 30 minute class periods. We teach 6 classes a day. I have a group for 12 weeks and then they rotate to technology for 12 weeks and music for 12 weeks. I chunk up my lessons into little bites, but the time I don’t have is time for them to process creative thoughts.
    It takes time for those creative images and thoughts to rise to the surface. Very often, just when they get going, it is time to put up.
    BUT, my district and particularly my Principal is very supportive of Fine Arts. We work very hard (two art teachers for a school of 850 students) to be visible and supportive of school goals.

  • Katherine Douglas

    This is a great discussion! I began what became choice based art education in 1972 BECAUSE I had nearly 40 classes per week of up to 32 kids for half an hour. Set up and clean up had to be streamlined with the students being in charge of what they had used, my teacher talk time had to be limited to 5 min or less, and I did not have enough “stuff” for an entire class to use at once–hence more than one choice. This also made it easy to manage students who worked “too fast” or “too slowly”. It wasn’t until several years later that I realized these survival strategies, invented on the fly , were resulting in better educational outcomes. Eventually between 700 and 960 students (depending on the year) and eventual wonderfully “long” 40 min classes had choice of medium and subject matter within a strong structure.

    When I began elementary art teaching in 1969 (yes, I am that old) everyone in my district complained about huge classes, terrible schedules, not enough budget, and difficult mixes of students. 44 Years later it is still that way–and I doubt it will ever change. So the question remains, if this is the job description (and yes, it is unfair) then how do teachers do the job in the best way?

    My hats off to all of the art teacher heroes out there–it is a very tough job, but with marvelous rewards. The children need all of you more than ever.

    regards from a retired teacher

  • Robin Moore

    I am lucky enough not to have time cut from my schedule. I actually started at 80% (4 days a week) 16 years ago, and with an enlightened administration, I was made full time a few years later. I teach 5-8, and all my classes are slightly over an hour. I teach 4 classes a day, plus a duty (everyone has equal contact time with the students). I see each class 22 times, which is an quarter of the year. It ends up to be every other day. As art teachers, you know we teach the whole spectrum- from the significantly learning different special education students to the very gifted- and they may be in the same class with everything in between! ( I don’t like the disabled label- learning disabled students are just students that learn from a different bag of tricks. It’s the teacher’s job to find a style that fits their need. Special education students tend to be some of my best students). There will be students working at different levels and different speeds because art teachers by nature are experts of differentiated instruction. We know how to challenge the very gifted and the student with different learning styles. For students that finish before the rest of the class, I have mini lessons that I’ve made up. It’s not unusual for me to be teaching different media that reinforce the same concept. Art teachers are the ultimate multi-taskers! An example would be that many of my fifth grade students are working on the studio part of their Native American weaving project (interdisciplinary with social studies, too). They are at a variety of different stages from weaving the negative space around their Native American image to the positive space of the image to finishing and sewing it into a pouch. I have one student that finished last class, so I had him work in a completely new medium. He created two pieces of construction paper with similar designs. He then drew objects on the one to cut out and paste on the other (positive & negative space) to camouflage. It only took the one class, and I’ll come up with something new next class. This one will emphasize pattern. Some students look forward to the down time to create something that they really want to do, and some need more direct instruction. You really have to know each student to give them what they need and make sure to challenge them. So sorry to hear about all the time being cut. The arts are constantly worried about being cut back to 80% with all the budget constraints here in New Jersey. It’s not an easy time to be a teacher- especially an art teacher. The best advice that I can give to some of my younger colleagues is:

    1. Get to know every one of your students- make sure they know how important they are- and be their advocate in all things educational.
    2. Make connections to other parts of their academics- and discuss these connections (they’ll be more likely to remember your content, as well).
    3. Reach out and make parent connections. I love to call parents and tell them how awesome their children are. You have a program advocate at that point.
    4. Let administrators know how you are interconnected to all the other subjects. It could be in your lesson plans or doing your observation conference, etc.
    So far, these have been the keys to my success. I still worry for my job every year though. In this test-driven teacher evaluation educational world that we live in, who knows what next year could bring. Keep your heads up, and enjoy every art educating moment with your students. That’s why you became an art educator!

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  • Jordan

    I’m a first year elementary art teacher in Florida, working at a pre-K – 5 school with nearly 800 students. I sincerely hope my classes don’t get any shorter next year! Currently I teach 9, 25 minute classes a day, back-to-back. I see each class once a week. It’s been a challenge to plan meaningful lessons that can be completed in such short blocks of time. Would appreciate any suggestions from all of the amazing teachers who frequent this site :)