At some point during this quarantine, you definitely watched a movie, read a book, or played a video game. Maybe you did one of those things, or maybe you did all three. Maybe you thought you would go insane without these activities to fill your time. You didn’t hesitate to spend money on these activities or willingly admit that they played a role in helping you cope with the loneliness of isolation. We gladly turn to these forms of art and media in times of difficulty because it helps us make sense of the world, to sift through the chaos. We consume that which has been produced for us by creative minds. So why, then, do we doubt budding artists?
As someone who is planning to major in creative writing at university, my career questioning has been a confusing time. Despite my obvious passion for writing, I was told to look towards STEM and to focus on the careers that “mattered.” I didn’t understand why art didn’t matter, why so many of my relatives tried to drag me away from one of the few things that made me happy. It wasn’t only me. One of my close friends was interested in pursuing visual arts but confided in me — one day at lunch with nobody around to hear — that she was ashamed of this.
Why are so many people afraid of the arts? Why do so many parents discourage their children from pursuing a career that makes them happy? Why is doing and making art something to be ashamed of, or something to talk about in hushed whispers and furious blushes when a STEM kid rounds the corner? Rather than labeling art as some sort of cursed career, I believe that we should champion the arts just as much as we champion STEM fields. We need to stop discouraging kids from exploring their passions.
A common misconception of art school, and probably the reason why so many parents fear their kids turning into artists, is the notion of the “starving artist.” Many of us have heard nightmare stories of artists spending so much time and effort in school, only to graduate and fail to find a high paying job. Contrary to this idea, author and Wall Street Journal contributor Daniel Grant cites a 2011 study that shows employment rates dropping to only about 4.5% for recent bachelor of fine arts graduates. The other 95.5% are thriving in employment.
Even those who are unemployed can find creative ways to start their own business, according to a major IBM Global Study. In this study, 1,500 CEOs from various countries were given several leadership qualities to rank. Out of the many skills presented, 60% of the CEOs ranked creativity as the most important leadership quality. It seems that art majors are on the rise to be a viable asset and welcomed cohort in the business world.
Besides concern about their success rates, some parents might be worried that their child’s salary or unconventional work routine will negatively impact their happiness and contentment with life. According to the National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) in 2018, art students have reported an 87% satisfaction with life, a drastically higher number than the percentage of those in accounting and regular nine-to-five jobs at 47%. Art majors are statistically proven to be happier with their work, even if they are working more than one job at once.
Besides the numbers, there are so many other reasons why we need to continue supporting artists and encouraging our kids to continue exploring their interests. In her piece on the Odyssey, staff writer Stephanie Cham asserts “every form of art is who we are. Art is being.” She further believes that art creates humanity and allows people to better connect with the world: “When humans die away, when the last wars have been fought and the rains fall without us, every form of art that outlives us will be the true captured essence of who we are now.” Similarly, in his article about recognizing the value of art and culture in society, the Guardian writer Peter Bazalgette argues that life is the inherent value of culture: “Imagine society without the civilizing influence of the arts and you’ll have to strip out what is most pleasurable in life.”
Art is important to me because it brings me joy. Nothing is more exciting to me than opening my computer up to a blank screen and waiting for the words to come. I couldn’t imagine my life without writing about the characters that live in my head or reading the stories from my favorite authors. Life without art and creativity would be terribly bland.
We have artists to thank for keeping us sane during the quarantine. The least we can do in return is to stop the taboo associate with art school and encourage the next generation of artists not to be ashamed of their passions and career aspirations, but instead to embrace them and be proud.
Art is a real, meaningful career choice. Art is why you can enjoy your favorite movies, books, and games and so much more. In times of chaos and especially in 2020, maybe a little art is all you need to forget the bad in this world.