“Oh, she’s just going to major in art because she doesn’t have the brains to actually study.”
“You want to go to art school? But you’re so smart! That’s such a shame.”
“In a world full of starving children and hectic politics, how the hell does art matter?”
If you’re an art student, these sort of questions may be more than familiar to you. In a world where new developments in technology and medicine are in constant demand, it’s easy for people to cast aside the arts as irrelevant, even pointless. And to a degree, I don’t blame them. When you’re in the midst of researching for a cure for cancer, or discussing how to solve the ever imminent issue of Syrian refugees, the works of Pablo Picasso or learning how to wield a paintbrush is most likely going to be the last thing on your mind. However, that doesn’t mean that art is a subject we can completely disregard.
It’s no secret that art is an outlet for creativity. But contrary to what many may believe, this creativity isn’t just useful for choosing hues or arranging a composition. It serves a purpose later on in careers of all fields, where everywhere they look people are forced to come up with new and innovative solutions, a skill that employers look for the most. In a study conducted by Paul Silvia at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, researchers found that involving oneself in a creative activity forced people to “cultivate competence, and reflect critically on the world”. And this served true for those who weren’t necessarily masters of the arts – even seemingly amateur and foolish results spurred this sort of mental development. Especially for primary school students, an education in the arts helps rewire the brain to promote intuition, reasoning, and dexterity.
Now you may ask, to a person who struggles day by day to support themselves, to put food into their children’s mouths, why does art matter to them? In April 2016, freelance reporter Alison Stine released an article “Why Art Matters Even in Poverty”, which covered the role of art in her and her son’s life as a family who lived in poverty. Despite the hardships, Stine noted how creativity made the “the unlivable not just livable, but survivable”, and how art was a source of happiness and entertainment in their everyday lives.
To look deeper into the misconceptions of the arts, Blueprint decided to ask the 2D Arts teacher, Ms. Cone, a few questions about society’s misunderstandings of the arts and what we can do to get rid of those stereotypes.
BP: What are some of people’s’ misconceptions about art and artists themselves?
Ms. Cone: I think that one of the major misconceptions about art and artists is that people have this quintessential fear of what an artist is- the image of a starving artist, a painter living by themselves in a disheveled, one-bedroom flat, the tortured soul. And I think that what people don’t realize is how many aspects of art there are and just how much art has impacted the world around us. The term “artist” itself can be broadened to include all manners of creators, a fact that doesn’t typically come to people’s minds when they hear the word.
BP: What do you think causes some of these misconceptions about art?
Ms. Cone: Part of it I believe is due to the romanticized view, based off of movies and/or the media. When this trope became popular- I can’t say for sure. But it certainly caused people’s worries about their children wanting to become artists, as people immediately think of the picture of the artist living in squalor. So inevitably, we see less support for that career path and art becomes denigrated.
BP: What can society do to get rid of these stereotypes of the starving artist and the ideal of students taking art as the easy way out of studying?
Ms. Cone: Oh man, that last part makes me so mad. I think part of it is coming to understand and appreciate the wide variety of artists there are in the world, and realizing how much of our daily lives are impacted by art. I’m using art in a very broad term, but literally everything you use, sit on, drive, come into contact with, had an artist- particularly industrial designers- involved in the process of creating that product. Coming to realize how much art enriches our lives everyday, not just through design but even as specific as painting. Think of hospitals that have no paintings in them, and hospitals that do have paintings in them- I’ll bet you that there are studies that show that hospitals with paintings in them make people happier. Just bringing creation and carefully considered visual spaces to people really does hold a positive impact. I think just generally being more educated will make people more appreciative of the arts. As of right now it’s really a zero-sum game- either you’re an arts person or a science person. People need to be more open to being multiple types of people. Everyone has the potential to be an artist, a creator, but they have to be willing to entertain that possibility.
Art isn’t the route of an escapist. It forces one to take a break from the bubble that surrounds us – to pause and take a look at the larger world in full force. So the next time you learn of someone choosing to take art as a career path, don’t mock them or disregard their work as insignificant. As John F. Kennedy once said, “we must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth”.
-Seiyeon Park (’17)
Featured Image: Seiyeon Park (’17) (Art by Sookja Lee)