Somewhere during my travels I spied a bumper sticker that said "Art Saves Lives." More accurately, it should have said, "Art Saves Souls."
Today I spent a very pleasurable afternoon with my friend Emily who is majoring in Art with the intent of becoming a professional photographer.
She is experiencing the difficulty that many Art majors encounter -- most family and friends don't consider the arts as "real jobs." She was an Honor Roll student in high school and others interacted with her as if she was the intelligent young woman that she is. However, now that she has declared as an Art Major, it seems to Emily that folks treat her as if she is an airhead. You know...the archetypal flighty, artsy-fartsy type. How cute -- she thinks she can make a living throwing pottery, printing lithographs, sculpting figurines, etc.
The primary reason I wanted to get together with Emily is to provide what moral support I can. I grew up among professional artists so I know that people can make a living in the arts. My father and grandfather were professional musicians, and my mother did some sewing for a fee. Not that it's easy -- but it's possible. Emily's choice of photography as her medium seems to me to be more viable financially than other artistic pursuits.
During our conversation it occurred to me that the reason so many people don't value artists and their product is because they don't see the effort that goes into producing the art. Plus -- there is a certain magical aptitude that comes naturally to the artist. Yes, there is the craft, and the hard work and practice that comes with learning that craft, but there is also the artistic ability that not everyone possesses.
Folks don't think twice about asking a talented dinner guest to play the piano for everyone's entertainment. It would never occur to the host to expect the guest who happens to be a plumber to repair the toilet or the attorney invited to dinner to update a will during the evening.
The average person sees the printed book on the shelf at the book store or in the library. They never witness the years (or even decades) of research, writing, and editing that went into producing the manuscript. They have no idea how many years of study and hours of painting went into producing the framed oil for sale in the art gallery. No one sees the sketches, fabric and trim selection, muslim samples, and hours of sewing that result in theatrical and movie costumes. Audiences listen to the symphony musicians in their formal black "tails," but no one sees them practicing at home or sweating through numerous rehearsals prior to the performance.
Emily is still learning her craft. But she already has an eye for capturing her subjects to reveal their personalities as well as their hopes and dreams. I'm convinced that she will be a success in her chosen field. She's not adverse to doing the scut work expected of an intern, nor "groveling" in the dirt to get the perfect angle for a shot. She appreciates the never-ending challenge of learning and perfecting an artistic medium.
Making a living by way of the arts is never easy. But it's possible. And bless those who have the courage and persistence to pursue their dreams, because...
Art Saves Souls.