Parents, don’t worry if your kids want to study fine art in college


As college application season is in full swing, high school kids sit down with their parents to discuss how they imagine adulthood.

Many teens will envision a life in the arts, regardless of old tropes on starving artists. Many mothers and fathers will fear tropes.

Here’s my advice: let your creative kids make their decisions and choose their own direction. If they choose the arts, support them with all your heart – not only out of love, but also because the arts are likely to make them happier than – and just as rich as – other avenues.

Report after report, the data is clear: Artists and others in creative fields have more job satisfaction than those in less colorful fields. Three-quarters of recent arts graduates included in a 2014 report from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, or SNAAP, were very satisfied with their work.

In 2013, separate research evaluation of data from 49 European countries revealed that artists are more satisfied with their work than non-artists.

In addition, a large portion of performing arts and design graduates find employment as professional artists – over 80%, according to SNAAP. Even people employed in non-artistic professions find it helpful to have studied an artistic field.

Arts graduates can also earn a lot of money, many times in accordance with the median annual income of nearly $ 68,000 among Americans with a bachelor’s degree. According to federal labor data, artistic directors see the median salary around $ 97,000; fashion designers and makeup artists, approximately $ 76,000; and industrial designers, approximately $ 72,000 – to name a few.

Consider other observations collected by SNAP, which has followed tens of thousands of former art students for more than a decade. Some of his discoveries:

  • Three-quarters of art and design students would attend the same school again.
  • Seventy-four percent of them work as artists and designers, while a smaller number of those who majored in biology (58%), accounting (56%) and mechanical engineering 53%) work in their favorite fields.
  • Art and design majors typically register unemployment rates of around 4%, often lower than the national average.
  • Of those working outside of the arts, 54% say their arts training is relevant to their main job.

In addition: a IBM survey over 1,500 senior executives around the world have found creativity to be the # 1 leadership quality desired for the future, more than critical thinking, dedication and holistic thinking.

The National Governors Association understood this almost 20 years ago, when it released a white paper touting the arts as the best training to join the workforce, especially for students from more socio-economic backgrounds. difficult. The association cited arts education as an option that can save states time and money in the hopes of building skills, improving standardized test scores, and bringing down crime rates.

So when your kids want to talk about their dreams, listen carefully. Find out what drives their passion for the arts. It won’t be the money or the fame.

It will probably be because the arts call them, enrich them, complete their existence.

It was true for me: at 18, after growing up in West Texas, I chose to major in music. Back then my only musical experience was playing the saxophone in the high school orchestra and singing in the choir of our little Methodist church.

When I told my father, who worked his life in the oil fields, that I wanted to be an opera singer, he only had three questions: was it an honorable profession? Was I good? Did it make me happy?

Once these were answered to his satisfaction, he became my most ardent cheerleader.

For this I will always be grateful. My journey in the arts has taken me to opera houses and concert halls around the world – and to a woman, an accomplished mezzo soprano with whom I have shared my life for over 40 years. The artistic work of our children has also animated them around the world.

None of us have ever regretted getting involved in this most human thing we do – the arts. Neither will your creative children.

They can never be rich or famous. But as the data shows, you’ll be fine.

Rodney miller is Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Wichita State University. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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About Madeline J. Carter

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