Q & A With Art Educator Marcia Osterink

Her online Arts Attack program has helped tens of thousands of teachers and students across the country learn how to make and appreciate art.


Marcia Osterink is a Southern California arts teacher and the creator of Arts Attack, an award-winning art curriculum designed for K-8 that’s available on DVD and streamable online.

Since 1991, Osterink has reached tens of thousands of students and teachers, sharing fundamental arts principles — such as color, line, shape, texture and perspective — as well as step-by-step lessons on creating original art. She has also crafted detailed lessons on art history and appreciation.

Her Arts Attack (Art Training for Teachers and Creative Kids) series has won a Mayor’s Award in her hometown of Del Mar and a Golden Bell Award for outstanding fine arts program from the California School Board Association. Osterink has re-filmed all of her lessons in high definition and created new episodes using Apple’s iMovie. She and her husband Larry have made the entire project available to schools and teachers online since 2014.

Since the beginning of this year, Arts Attack has recognized a Teacher of the Month who’s using the curriculum successfully in his/her class. Tori Foley, a teacher from La Costa Meadows Elementary School in Carlsbad, CA, is April’s honoree.

Osterink (and her husband) shared her thoughts on the arts, technology and why arts education is critical in K-8 education.

THE Journal: Why is arts education important for kids?

Marcia Osterink: Well, I don’t consider it just important, I consider it essential. If you want to get technical, I’m just going to talk about what goes on in kids’ brains, and educators caring about the whole child.

Teaching art is teaching how to access the right side of the brain, which is where all imagination, visualization, holistic thinking, synthesizing takes place. Any new idea takes place in the right side of the brain.

We’re helping to develop creative kids who can really express themselves. You can see it when kids are writing, writing a term paper. If they really can’t enter the right side of the brain, they can’t see how all this information goes together, how all these bits and pieces pull together.

THE Journal: Why do there always seem to be cutbacks in arts education?

Osterink: I really think it dates back to the administrators. It dates back to their own art experience, where they didn’t feel good about themselves in art. They don’t value it. It’s like they kind of don’t believe it. Over the years, there have been studies that prove SAT scores go up when young people are involved in art. The kids in the arts outperform kids across the line.

[The administrators] don’t really grasp the full value of it. They kind of think of it as playtime. I just think the decision makers, the administrators just think it’s fluff still. It definitely is not that.

I’ve been doing this since 1979, and it’s the same old story. It’s probably worse now than it was then. With No Child Left Behind, there’s been a heavy emphasis on testing and test scores. Teachers are under so much pressure to have high test scores. We don’t have time for art. Art isn’t one of our disciplines that they are testing.

THE Journal: How does art education carry over into other areas of study?

Osterink: When you read, you visualize. Every concept starts with an image. This ability to visualize and imagine does carry over into reading. It carries over into writing. Just this thing I was talking about, the right side of the brain. You have to be able to put things together and make connections between things. When you’re creating art, you have a big piece of paper in front of you, and you try to put something together that has some kind of meaningful whole. That’s what scientists do when they’re doing experiments. If they don’t ever get that vision, that insight of, “Oh, I can see how this all pulls together,” then they can’t invent.

Steve Jobs was one of the people that said one of the most important things when he interviewed a person was a great art portfolio. He was looking for people, artists as visionaries.

THE Journal: Do you see a connection between technology and art?

Osterink: Certainly in the sense that [art] stimulates creative thinking, and I think technology is moving so fast, that we need real creative thinkers to develop and create these ideas for technology.

I love the connections, the things that technology can do visually. At a concert, it’s amazing to me the backdrop, the things going on. The pictures, the visual, the background, the singers. Yes, I see technology as being one of the arts in a sense.

THE Journal: How do you create your Arts Attack videos?

Osterink: I create all the video, all of the product. I do all the editing. I’m still using iMovie. I like it. It works really good for me and it’s fast, and the rendering’s fast.

I tried Final Cut Pro. I tried to love it, but kept going back to iMovie. You get good at what software you’re used to.

THE Journal: How is Arts Attack different online, compared to the DVDs or even the old VHS tapes?

Osterink: There’s an art gallery they can access. They can go right to it, instead of ordering art prints. We provide everything — books and everything physical — now online. It certainly seems to be the preferred way of thinking.

Larry Osterink: There are a lot of advantages. For example, when we do updates, the customer has them immediately. It’s lower cost. It includes a Great Masters Virtual Museum, which is added as an addendum. It’s high definition, and nothing wears out.

THE Journal: How much is Arts Attack? Do you offer educational discounts?

Larry Osterink: The base price is $550 for a five-year subscription. If there’s more than one grade classroom, it’s $100 per extra classroom. The biggest district that has the program is San Bernardino School District.

For small schools, it’s typically one-third off. For districts, it depends on how many schools are in the district. We have our product in every state in the United States, and a number in different countries as well.

THE Journal: What has the feedback been like from teachers and students?

Marcia Osterink: Well, it’s been really all positive. It really enables teachers to teach art. So many teachers — they’re so proud they can teach art. We have really satisfied customers, because it works. Plus our program, as I said, it’s serious art. We teach kids how to draw, use right-brain drawing. They learn across the disciplines: how to paint, weave, work with clay. We teach a whole program based on fundamental art principles, and those don’t change.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].