I come from a family of artists. So, it wasn’t surprising or disappointing when I, like my other sisters, decided to pursue a creative degree. I have been lucky enough to grow up in a household where my creativity has always been supported and encouraged, but not everyone is blessed with such an experience.
When I began university last year, it surprised me how much I found myself almost defending my course choice because I’d never had to before. Sometimes even feeling ashamed and underrated like I had wasted £9,000 (haven’t we all?)
The difficulty lies in the skepticism surrounding creative degrees. They’re often regarded as vocational, lazy, easy, useless, a cop out. The simpler path. Its these kind of assumptions that allow people to form a distaste towards these degrees.
Stranger: “So, what do you study”
Me/Creative Student: “____”
Lets fill in that blank shall we? Media Studies, Cinema Studies, Broadcast Journalism, Film, Film & Photography, Graphics, Printed Textiles, Illustration, Fashion Communication, Fashion Concepts, Digital and Media, Performing Arts, Drama, New Media, Media and Communication, Creative Writing, Fine Art, Music, Music Composition and Technology, Theatre Studies… to name a few of the many available in the UK.
I can guarantee you that any “creative” student will have experienced the following response to the question above at one point or another after stating what they study.
Yes the classic ahhhh, the ahhh that ranges from a subtly judgemental “interesting” to the blatantly condescending “why are you throwing your life away?”And what kills me the most is when there isn’t a follow up question after the ahhhh. I’d take a, “ahhh so you want to be an.. artist?” or on a good day, when I’m feeling considerably generous with my patience I’ll even settle for, “ahhh so.. what do you actually do?” which is more often than not laced with disbelief and as I begin to explain, is accompanied with this exact expression:
One of my favourite examples involves a friend of mine. A guy had she had matched on Tinder had sent her a message. The usual, how you doing, where you from? ensued, general chit chat, and then the inevitable,
Tinder Guy: “So..what are you studying?”
Tinder Guy: *Disappears from ‘My matches’*
Yes, that’s right people, he literally up and disapparated, unmatching her because she studies Fashion!! What is with the prejudice?? At this point, you’d probably expect me to outline why creative degrees are just as important as Biology or History or Business Management or Child Care or Languages or that we should all just be whoeeeeever we wanna be. But I’m not gonna do that. Because quite frankly, how we all choose to spend “our” £27,000+ and the next 3/4 years or more, really is our own business.
I’m not even gonna to illustrate how important creativity is in terms of feeding the void that is the our constant existential crisis, i.e What would the world/humanity be without Art?
I can’t even explain why some of my fellow students seem so worried with MY course choice but, I know that for some parents economic instability is a high concern and that’s understandable. There is the assumption that pursuing Art or Music or Fashion etc won’t necessarily lead to a sustainable career. That everyone just wants to be famous or a singer or dancer or get on television these days. And yes, the creativity industry is incredibly competitive and breaking into it can take several attempts. It is not for the faint-hearted or the mediocre.
But what many people don’t know is that the Creative industry is also the UK’s fastest growing sector. In 2014, creative industries contributed £81.4 billion pounds to the economy. The number of jobs in the industry also grew by 9% between 2013 and 2014. A new report that is a collection of 70 pieces of original research, gives a 200 odd page detailed analysis of the impact of the arts and culture sector. The report, essentially breaks down the different ways the industry has affected the individual, communities, health and well being as well as the economy.
Seeing as I’m “so lucky” I don’t have exams this year, I was able to skim read. I’ve picked out a sound bite to give you a gist of what they were talking about:
“Arts and cultural activity and engagement bring with them many direct and sometimes immediate benefits to the economy and to society. But they also bring value to individuals and society by creating the conditions for change; a myriad of spillover effects that include an openness, a space for experimentation and risk-taking at the personal, social and economic levels, an ability to reflect in a safer and less direct way on personal, community and societal challenges, and much else.
The value of art and culture is not always easy to evidence”
This is just a tiny segment of the research. It also focuses on the practical value of arts and culture in terms of health and wellbeing and its uses in the medical field.
Take Iris Grace for instance, a six-year-old from Leicestershire who is on the autistic spectrum and began painting in 2013. Her artwork has been sold to private collectors for thousands of pounds and all profits go towards more art supplies and therapies. Her pieces have helped to raise awareness of Autism and in an interview with The Independent, her mother talks about how she can see a shift in attitudes towards Autism as a result of her daughters talents.
If her artistic talent is seen as something so positive why do we ignore or discredit everyone elses? Now, it would be silly to assume that every creative student will end up designing therapies or paintings to be hung in hospitals. It’s almost as silly as thinking that all art students do is draw, or that a music degree is just a 3 year long concert or that journalism is learning how to say, “Good morning and welcome to the Breakfast show,” or that fashion students just make clothes. In fact, the real mvps are physicists and mathematicians.
Of course there is a work involved!!!! There shouldn’t be a competition between the BSc and BAs over who has the most work or which is the hardest. (What would we benefit from having such a conversation? Tell ’em don’t waste my time. Their contributions to society differ and intertwine simultaneously. More importantly, creative degrees are more than just showcasing a talent. The creative industry underpins and permeates countless other fields that people may never expect it to. The fact that this website is able to draw attention to mental health and depression, police brutality, body shaming, empowerment, institutional racism and in the same space talk about music festivals big and small, sports figures who are constantly pushing boundaries in one way or another and give insights into cities like Budapest is a real life yet microcosmic example of how encompassing the creative industry is.
So now that I’ve sorted out the money worries and proven that creativity is still profitable, valuable, effective and heavily depended on, is there really anything else to comfort the skeptics with? Honestly, I’ll be okay.
Behind the assumed glitz, glamour and the superficiality there are people making real differences as you would expect in other fields just not perhaps in a 9-5 setting. (I actually only had to be in 3 days a week this year and yet here I am, getting on pretty well, writing for an award winning website *cough* shameless promotion *cough*) The fact that I get to share my talent in the shape of a garment, documentary, performance, video, app, graphic or article in the process when working is just a bonus and newsflash is also what I WANT to do. This article may not change the world, improve community cohesion or lead to the invention of new therapies but I hope it emphasises that yes, there really is a point to it all. Don’t be discouraged by those who don’t understand your passion.
So, to the guy who unmatched my friend, she was so so so far out of your league to begin with..