Recently, as I was sitting on the bus on the way to my next class, I overheard two students talking. They had just come out of an introductory level non-majors dance class, and were speculating about what a day in the life of a dance major might look like.
“I bet they never have homework.”
“Yeah, and I bet they start at, like, noon.”
“I wonder if they even need that many credits to graduate.”
“What do you think they even do after college? Will they just, like, not make money?”
I was taken aback. I will admit that as a dance major, the majority of my friends are other artists within the School of Music, Theater, and Dance, and, as a by-product, I am surrounded by their ideas of art all the time. However, this conversation caught me by surprise. While the role of art and artists in society are generally misconstrued and misunderstood, there is no question: being an artist is a job. A real, legitimate, challenging job, just as being a banker, or a doctor, or a teacher is a real, legitimate, and challenging job. Similarly, being a student in art school is just as challenging, sleep-depriving, and difficult as being a student studying liberal arts or science.
Many of us are pursuing second degrees or minors. Many of us juggle full credit-loads on top of rehearsals, performances, and crew hours. Many, if not the majority of us, have stayed up into the early mornings to finish papers, lab reports, and readings.
I could talk for a long time about the legitimacy and difficulty of completing a dance major. I could talk about the fourteen hour days and the weekend rehearsals; the running across campus to make it to class and the dance clothes that I wear underneath my clothes at all times. However, the larger issue at hand is this: artist are people too. The arts is a viable career field. What we do is not easy, and what we do deserves the same respect as any other job.
I do not say these things as a criticism of the two intro students; I am sure they were legitimately curious and unknowing. However, the importance of continuing to educate the general public as a means to change how society views the arts is incredible. This is 2018. The year that the arts start to be recognized for what they are: essential.