Can you do it?
Art is a much a part of our collective unconscious as it is our every day lives.
From the clothes we wear to the television programs we watch, from the food we consume to the books we read, from the the music we listen to on our way to work and the sculptures or even graffiti we pass by every day, art is always present. Even the marketing logos we are constantly bombarded by are made possible by artists, and art seemingly pervades every element of our lives.
And yet art degrees and programs are constantly being devalued. Art program funding is being cut in school after school. (2)
A popular opinion in my neck of the woods is that everyone should get a “normal” degree or study trade skills. A degree or program in English, literature, music, or art appreciation is impractical and akin to basket-weaving. A “normal” degree is one that fits the ideals of the critics, one that can be used to make money, especially for other people.
MBAs are the practical; art degrees are not. In fact, according to Discover Business, the five main reasons for getting a degree in business are that:
1. It’s practical (Writer’s Note: There’s that word again!)
2. You want to go into management (W.N.: There are far too many people in management who have no people skills, let’s not encourage more)
3. It’s versatile enough for everyone (W.N.: Really?)
4. It looks good on paper and (W.N.: Again, Really?)
5. Networking (W.N.: Because it takes a business degree to learn how to meet people?)
You know what looks good on paper? Words. Water colors and oil paint. Sketches. Calligraphy. Musical notes.
…and that’s not to say that “practical” degrees do not have their place in society, or even that they’re unimportant.
They’re just not the right thing for everyone, and this disparagement of artists by those more “practical” seems to be little more than a cry for more conformity.
If everyone obtained a “practical” degree or chose their life’s path in a “practical field,” we would have few if any artists. Without without artists and their art, the world would be lacking the Sistine Chapel, Macbeth, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, The Thinker. We would have never known Starry Night, Blue Moon, or “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” although more than a few high school English students might breathe a sigh of relief for not having to memorize the last one.
Except, come to think of it, they wouldn’t not know to breathe a sigh of relief, so that’s moot. But still, No Queen or Calvin and Hobbes.
There would be no story tellers, no clowns, no comics. No blues guitarists, no ballet. No Broadway. No crafts or quilts. No sculpture.
Imagine for a moment the United States without her Statue of Liberty.
An interesting tidbit: it is highly likely that the Statue of Liberty was the first crowd-funded project. The French paid for the statue itself on the condition that the United States provide a location and a pedestal for her. When previous attempts at fund-raising fell short, Joseph Pulitzer ran a fund raising campaign and collected over $100,000 in contributions mostly consisting of less than $1 each. This amount was raised in about six months. Oh, and it was accomplished in 1884. (1)
Artists of all stripes all serve a valuable role in our society, regardless of the “impractical” nature of their fields, regardless of the seeming madness of the world and the obsession with all things “practical.”
Artists are our history keepers, our voice, and our conscience. They are our prophets, showing us how things could be. They warn of dystopia, cry out for heedfulness, showcase beauty, and share with us the vision–if we are brave enough–that beckons us to walk into a better tomorrow.
Work makes a living, but art makes a life.
Artists are critical–both to and of our culture–and I believe that they should be celebrated, amplified, and supported. If we are to make efforts to create a better life, live Life 2.0, we cannot ignore the importance of art and those who create it, and we cannot value the art without also valuing the artist.
Within the next few weeks, I’ll be implementing my Starfish Project in order to celebrate, amplify, and support those artists whose presence makes the world a better place.
I hope you’ll join me.
Random Weird Shit:
I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
- (1) https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21932675 Statue of Liberty
- (2) https://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/03/us/as-schools-trim-budgets-the-arts-lose-their-place.html
- (3) https://www.discoverbusiness.us/
- Statue of Liberty: Photo by Julius Drost on Unsplash
- The Sistine Chapel: Painted by Michelangelo, image from Under and English Sky
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare as shared by MIT
- Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, conducted by Leonard Bernstein via YouTube
- Image of the Thinker by Auguste Rodin via Musee Rodin
- Starry Night by Vincent VanGogh via MoMA Learning
- “Blue Moon” performed by Billie Holiday via YouTube
- “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth via Poetry Foundation
- “The Show Must Go On” performed by Queen via YouTube
- Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
- Statue of Liberty Upskirt: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash