opinion

COLUMN: Don't belittle people who pursue arts degrees



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As graduation approaches with its family barbecues and graduation parties, so does the impending question: “What are you going to do with that degree?”

Art majors have endless opportunities that many people never even realize. Graphic design and visual arts are present in our everyday lives at nearly every moment.

The art for your favorite musician’s album was potentially designed by someone with a visual arts degree. Your favorite movie poster was probably devised by someone with an art background. Emergency infographics, public health PSAs and airline safety graphics had to be created by someone who was design-savvy.

The case on your cell phone, the designs in your video game and the trading cards you played with as kids are all products of artists making their trades commercial — many of them with a college degree.

There has forever been a need for artists, so why do people belittle or demean art degrees?

There is a stigma that places emphasis on STEM and business as trades while pushing the arts off to the side. The market for art is bustling and constant, so how is wanting a degree in art any different than wanting a degree in economics or finance?

The reason to attend college is to gain a professional understanding of a subject in order to qualify you for the workforce. Art has a workforce the same way finance, business and science all do. Art has supply and demand, résumés, portfolios and experience in the exact same way that other markets do, yet is never regarded as a true trade or profession.

Art as a profession does not necessarily include selling commissioned pieces or selling out galleries for a living. Art as a profession can mean graphic design, marketing, story telling, sales, communications, teaching, the list goes on.

The argument that the pursuance of an art degree cannot pay itself off is ridiculous because many degrees will not pay themselves off, at least not for a while.

While there are degrees that may create opportunities for you to take higher-paying positions, most people with an undergraduate degree all graduate with one common issue — student debt. No matter your degree, that is a financial burden.

The financial argument also just rings true a sad note that most people are really truly only concerned with money. Instead of shaming people who are pursuing an art degree for “picking a tough profession” or a degree that will “never make money” we should be applauding them for genuinely getting an education in something they care deeply for.

We should be encouraging more people to follow an art program. We should be encouraging more people to employ artists and pay them fairly. We should be encouraging children to make art in school and then keep doing it at a professional level.

Visual arts have always been entangled in every aspect of business and communication, so let’s give visual art professionals the respect they deserve.

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