The Crimson White

Why art?

Erin Mosley

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“What are you going to do with an art degree?” I assume that most of the people who ask that mean well, but whenever I get the question, I feel as though there is a small amount of disdain attached to whatever concern may be expressed. There are times when people ask out of genuine curiosity, but more often than not, it seems as if the question, when decoded would actually be, “Why don’t you study something practical, make a decent living and actually contribute to society?”

“I don’t know what I’ll do—maybe move into my parents’ basement,” I answer with a sort of nervous laughter that reveals my response to be only half in jest. In the depths of my soul, it’s a concern for me as well. A few years ago, I remember talking to an acquaintance about studying art. “I used to love to draw in high school,” he remarked. “But I knew I wanted to make a lot of money so I forced myself through an engineering degree.” I would have attempted to do the same if it weren’t for my mom who, when explaining to her why I didn’t want to rather bluntly and harshly asked me why I would slap God in the face by not using the talents given me.

Much of the pressure I feel is admittedly, self-inflicted, but at the same time much of it is societal; careers in the arts simply aren’t valued anymore as highly as those in science and math. I understand the need for innovation. We have legitimate needs in medicine, engineering and technology but these fields simply take care of our immediate and obvious needs. What about our other needs? We live in a society that pushes everything cerebral and forgets about the soul. I believe that we often ignore the impact that art has on a society.

Whether it be beneficial or harmful, we forget the fact that it is literature, music and art that has the power to inspire and to invoke thoughts and ideas.

Some art has been dangerous such as Nazi propaganda art. Others have been a catalyst for the advancement of society; the raised fist was used graphically during the Civil Rights movement as a sign of unity.

I spent too much time feeling ashamed of the things I had a natural aptitude for because there was a chance that it wouldn’t earn a larger paycheck or the respect of society as a whole, but we weren’t all meant to wear lab coats and hold scalpels. Some of us were meant for smocks and paint brushes. With the brush or the pen or the lyrics, comes a great responsibility to society.

Erin Mosley is a junior majoring in German and studio art. Her column runs biweekly. 

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Why art?