"Art is my life and my life is art" - Yoko Ono

By Orla Loughran Hayes

During my first year of University, while sitting in the student halls common room, I found myself in conversation with a friend of mine - a computer science student. To this day, something he said has stuck with me. He said: ‘I think it’s really bad when young people are encouraged to pursue their passions and study art. They won’t be able to get a job. There are no jobs in art!’ As an arts student I was deeply troubled by this statement. It made me question everything. Was my parents’ encouragement to study my passion, entirely corrupt? Was I destined for bankruptcy? Was my student life simply a false paradise that would disintegrate into a fiery pit of rejection e-mails after graduation?

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"A society without festivals, literature and paintings, would be one deprived of entertainment"

After thinking about it for a while, I came to a conclusion: he was wrong. He had been deluded by the swarm of Guardian and Tab articles documenting the employment prospects of Graduates. He was missing the bigger picture. I believe that creative young people choosing their degree subject should be empowered to study arts subjects. The first problem with his statement that there are ‘no jobs in art’ is that it is incorrect. From gallery curating to product design; there are numerous jobs within the art industry.

One of the wonderful things about studying art is that there is potential to become a self-employed artist, and sell your work and earn money that way. For me studying drama, there was always the potential to become an actor, going from one role to the next. I would argue that rather than a predictable and steady income, happiness should be the end we strive to achieve. Life is short, and if a certain career makes a person feel fulfilled, it is best to pursue that, as opposed to a mediocre/unhappy existence.

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"Arts are, and always have been, tools for communication"

If someone gets great enjoyment from painting, they could be in a state of perpetual pleasure in pursuing a career as a fine artist. Surely, this is miles ahead of the infrequent bursts of joy (usually on payday) they would experience if they took up a mundane office job. As a society, we need to reevaluate how we perceive the arts. In 2018, a BBC survey involving more than 1,200 schools found that nine out of every ten schools reported that they had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities of at least one creative subject. By undermining the value of the arts in this way, we risk losing what is most pleasurable in life. A society without festivals, literature and paintings, would be one deprived of entertainment.

Not only that, but it would also be a society bereft of national conversation; as the arts are, and always have been, tools for communication. So if you ever come across a friend or family member trying to scaremonger you into rethinking your choice of arts degree, take them to a Gallery or Theatre. Teach them about the history of the arts, and their value in society. Inform them of the careers in that particular industry. Most of all, remind them that given the shortage of time, a life should be spent fulfilling passions rather than obligations and trends.