No, I’m not going to be a starving artist

The arts are a legitimate career choice

by Kathryn Pinto, staff

STEM. Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics are pictured for many of us as the most worthwhile career endeavors, and the industries of the future. But society’s pressure towards kids to choose STEM careers over the arts reinforces a harmful mythology to turn kids away from legitimate jobs in artistic endeavors. 

So why don’t we value art careers? It begins, and ends, with money. 

Maybe you remember sifting through a career website in middle school in an early attempt to begin planning for life after college. For jobs falling under art categories, it wasn’t terribly appetizing. 

The average salary difference between STEM and art careers deters people from art careers. Eight out of the 10 highest paying jobs on Investopedia are in the medicine field. It’s not surprising; medicine was a billion dollar industry even before the COVID pandemic. As for technology, well, everyone around Seattle has seen the impacts of the tech industry, and every American is well aware of the amount of money companies like Apple and Tesla are making. 

So yeah, it’s natural to want to join industries that make the most money.  Everyone wants to be able to pay off their student loans, and have enough extra for the occasional jaunt into the Cascades, or the city, or wherever you like. It’s frightening to be pursuing a degree where your education and a safe, secure future salary seems difficult and at times unattainable. 

The arts aren’t often considered valid career choices, because art is believed to be the work of talent alone. Artists are often credited with talent, rather than skill, leading to the devaluing of their work. If you me draw, you never see the roughly 16 years I’ve spent drawing, the thousands and thousands of boxes from my childhood filled to the brim with sketches of people. The assumption that I just teleported into the world with a pen and the ability to put an image onto paper is very false. 

Like anything, it comes down to practice. And we need to respect that. 

Instead of a potential career, art is often labeled as a hobby. No, it’s never a problem if you’re into business and love to paint on the weekends. It is a problem when there is a cultural assumption that what you’re trying to make into a career is not worthy of “job status.” It gets less pay and hype than things like technological endeavors. In the end, not only does our culture need to value artists, but our wallets do too.

by Kathryn Pinto

Society’s traditional, limited definition of art is a problem too. Art is often associated with only things like painting or theater. 

But, look beyond this, and art expands into a wide variety of fields. A designer must conceptualize and create a shoe before it’s manufactured. A website must be made to look eye-catching. An interior designer must imagine the perfect paint combo to match a client’s countertops. Someone has to paint the river hanging above the couch in the dentist’s waiting room. Art is everywhere in our lives, and the need for artists is ever expanding, especially in a digital world. Being an artist is not just drawing, it’s also Adobe software, clothing design, architecture, product photography, and everything in between. 

So can an artist’s efforts be worth it? Yes. It just might be different than a 9 to 5. Going into the arts means you might be working as a content creator or someone running their own business. You might be traveling full-time as a photographer, or working at a dance studio. There is increasing visibility on social media of the ability to make a full time job out of a passion. It is possible. 

If you are passionate about something you are probably going to be more invested in it anyway. You’re going to want to get better, and improve your skills. Passion about your work gives you a drive that can help you make money, even in an industry with a lower average salary. And, in the end you might be happier too. So if you like art, get back to the drawing pad, or the crochet projects from 2020, and don’t be afraid to make a job out of something.