To the artists out there that have somehow found this article, I thank you for what you do. What we do is not easy, despite what many try to tell us. I am sure you are all too familiar with the following scenario:
The pressure of an impending transition to the real world begins to flicker through your mind as you contemplate your future. This is college, the place where you are supposed to figure it all out. You get a degree then you get a job, if things pan out the way you want them to. If you're lucky, maybe you'll have a little bit of a life somewhere in the mix. But first, you think practicality. How will you be able to support yourself? Although the thought of giving up what you truly love makes you hurt to your very core, you take a deep breath and try to think sensibly. You scan through all the majors and minors you can adopt, and you narrow down the ones that seem the most practical and perhaps the least miserable. You think of your talents and your passions and you yearn for them.
You long to submerge every ounce of yourself into what you love, when finally your heart gives in and you reach the consensus that you can not live without your craft, be it painting, dancing, singing, acting, performing, directing, writing, sculpting, drawing, photography, design, etc. Your heart swells every time you bring your art form to life, and you question where you would be without your artistry. After numerous emotional battles with yourself and a few lapses of self doubt, you come to the realization that you are a person and you are an artist. Realizing what you want and finding the courage to make it happen creates a beautiful and memorable moment. It's a moment you will reflect on forever, so if some day you really make it, you can look back and pinpoint the instance where your life changed forever.
It sounds so poetic and shiny, doesn't it? Unfortunately, for each of those beautiful moments in an artist's world, there is an ugly or cold moment also looming around the corner. Although I do think our society is becoming increasingly accepting of and enthusiastic towards art, there are still some stigmas surrounding it that should be abolished.
There's always those people you bump into on the street, whether they be old friends, neighbors, or even complete strangers, that strike up casual and cliche conversation with you and eventually get to the topic of your major, your degree, or your job. When you proudly proclaim that you are a Music Major, have a B.A. in Drama and Theatre Studies, or are working tech for a local theatre company and waitressing six days a week to make ends meet, they look back at you like you've just insulted them. In their eyes you see a little judgment, but mostly pity and concern. They ask you about your plans, then your back-up plans, then your back-up to your back-up plan, as if to remind you that your dreams do not qualify as plans.
Let's pause for a moment, because I'm struggling to understand why the mention of a Performing Arts, Design, English, or Creative Arts Degree cause onlookers to roll their eyes. Do they seriously think we don't get it? Do they really believe we aren't scared or unsure every day? Do they think we are so caught up in our craft that we do not see the harshness of reality? Perhaps they should take into account the true bravery of an artist. Maybe, just maybe, then they will see that we use their eye rolls and snide suggestions as challenges to go further and incentive to create more. It's not that we are stupid or blind or incapable of doing other things. We are motivated and passionate individuals that love what we do so much we are willing to devote our lives to it, despite all odds. It is not stupidity or laziness; it is determination and unconditional love.
Appreciate the artists that exist now, and encourage children with a love of the arts to never give up. Look around your house and mentally eliminate all things created by artists and see what's left. Not much of anything would remain, as we are all our own breed of artist. The paintings and portraits scattered about, the paint color on the walls, the tile design in the floor, the needlework of the rug, the melodies and harmonies sweetly humming from the radio, the arrangement of cabinets on a wall, the modern look and sleek curvature of stainless steel appliances, the patterns and designs on food labels, and the architecture of the house itself are all pieces of artwork. Life as we know it is a piece of artwork carefully constructed by those that have lived and waiting to be altered by those that have yet to live.
Never feel sheepish to tell someone you plan to major in the arts, get a degree in the arts, or search for jobs in the arts. Never doubt someone's abilities when they tell you they studied performance or design. Artists keep our world moving forward, and their contributions to society are absolutely essential. So instead of joking with us about how doctors and lawyers "make good money" and "can probably retire early if they play their cards right," start appreciating that artists make life beautiful and a true artist never retires because they do what they love until the day they die.