Imagine this: you go to work, as usual, watching everyone dressed in leaves on a grassy plain. Afterward, you entertain yourself by throwing a ball around. You miss dancing. You have nothing to dance to. Music doesn’t exist. You return home to a box that you found the other day. Houses collapsed long ago with business buildings when architects stopped. You fall asleep thinking about that old movie poster that you threw out and you wonder if your children have ever heard of movies or plays. You realize that they will lead lackluster childhoods–after all, roleplaying, singing, and watching movies are all now impossible. You’ll have to memorize what they look like. The world officially deemed photography to be “art” and threw it out. How will your kids survive the winter? With fashion designers gone, who’s left to create clothing?
That’s the world without art.
The arts create humanity every day. They shape us, whether we’re art majors, STEM majors, custodians, therapists, cashiers, or CEOs. They permeate everything that we think, say, and do. They're part of our cultures, our passions, and our lives. So why do people call it “unnecessary?” The jokes always come up in daily life, sometimes thoughtless (“You value your hobbies more than making a living.”) and sometimes intentionally harmful (“You’ll never get anywhere in life. Your degree is useless and so are you.”). Three types of people scoff at art: those who fear, those who ignore, and those who worry.
If the arts are really so insignificant, then why are they always the first to encounter censorship? I believe that people know the importance of music, of paintings, and of “Internet memes,” even on an unconscious level. They know how easy it is for a powerful song to make someone feel surges of emotions (like how Adele's songs seem to make people cry over partners that they never had). They know that what starts as a simple melody can become rallying cries of protestors (see also: the national anthem in the French Revolution). They’re not laughing at art because they think that it’s nothing, they’re laughing because they’re scared.
Others ignore the arts. Some people refuse to be in touch with their emotions. They believe that living life with practicality will make them successful. It will. They’ll survive and earn a living, maybe build a family off of their income and be in love with their careers, but completely rejecting the therapeutic effects of the arts hurts them. They want funding for arts education to be cut, but they also want their movies, their shows, and their advertisements. They want to wear professional clothing to work every day, but they don’t want to support the people who design it. It’s possible to live with the acceptance of both STEM majors and art majors. Even doctors find the time to form orchestras.
Angry critics will always argue that the arts are almost entirely emotion-driven. I agree. Isn’t that what makes art so powerful? Emotions form identity and if the arts can’t exist without identity, then every form of art is who we are. Art is being. Whether we are the bright-eyed innocents of small statures and great imaginations or the wise-eyed veterans of the world, we cannot be without it or it without us.
Don’t worry on the behalf of fine arts majors and artists. We’re aware of the hardships in this field. We hear it every day and we choose it anyway. Besides, the “starving artists” stereotype often comes from people who aren’t sure what to do with their talents. Times are changing. Art entrepreneurship has now become widespread as more courses and programs delve into the subject. We’re taking care of ourselves. We worry too, but we’ll be okay.
Everything plays a part in the structure of this world, but the arts are there to connect them. 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. Dear critics, I’m asking you to let go of your fear that we’re throwing away our lives for nothing. Let it go and let us make art. Let music therapists, designers, producers, singers, performers, and painters continue to serve you and we’ll let art continue to tell your story and ours.