STARVING ARTISTRY

PHS senior and Prowl Reporter and Copy Editor Bailey Phillips argues that pursuit of the fine arts is taken advantage of and deserves higher esteem

PHS+senior+Bailey+Phillips+poses+with+a+collection+of+books+that+help+to+inspire+her+own+writings.

Lucyjane Crimm

PHS senior Bailey Phillips poses with a collection of books that help to inspire her own writings.

In his studio apartment, a struggling actor huddles with a blanket in the corner. He watches water drip from a crack in the ceiling, watches his breath fog the air just in front of him—he couldn’t afford his heating bill this month. In his hands, a styrofoam cup of instant Ramen, his only meal of the day.

He is a starving artist, and he is the image we are taught to see when we consider pursuing the arts as a career. 

Through a combination of economic and societal pressure, those with a passion for singing, acting, dancing, writing or other forms of artistic expression are heavily discouraged from pursuing those things as anything more than a hobby. We’re told that those who ‘made it’ are just flukes, people who got lucky, and while that is true, it sets my skin to crawling when this is used to trivialize artistic passion. 

And of course, who could forget about the rather visceral reaction most parents have to their child confessing that they’re thinking of pursuing a degree in their field?

I’d have more success throwing money in a hole.”

— Seamus Bercher

Why, mothers have cried, clutching their pearls, darling, you simply mustn’t! 

You can do whatever you want, fathers have declared, failing egregiously to hide their righteous judgement, but you’re not spending my money on some useless degree. 

The main argument for this stance, of course, is financial. If you never get famous, you’ll reside in squalor all your life, and is that really worth the fulfillment of pursuing your passion? For many, including high school senior and Air Force hopeful Seamus Bercher, it’s not.

“[I] was gonna try to get a degree in acting or something,” Bercher said in an interview with The Prowl, “but I’d have more success throwing money in a hole so the Air Force it is.”

Bercher said he felt it was too much of a risk to rely solely on his own skill set for a viable career when the competition is so stiff, but that he hopes to continue participating in community theatre productions recreationally in the future.

But for others, including myself, recreation won’t cut it; some of us are actually delusional enough to refuse to settle for anything less than a career in our preferred field. 

That’s not to say there isn’t a backup plan, though. It’s like you always hear: don’t quit your day job. So, for instance, while my goal is to be a professional author one day, my plan is to be an English teacher until that pans out. This, while more realistic and much more of a compromise than abandoning what you love altogether, is still an unfortunate expectation; it’s difficult to be creative when you’ve been toiling for The Man for a full work day. If I had the guts to put all my eggs in the Successful and Published Author basket, to dedicate every hour of my day to storytelling, I would. But alas, I do not.

So to those who do have the guts, to those who have made it, those who haven’t, and those who are eating instant Ramen from a styrofoam cup for dinner because they can’t afford anything else, I commend you. I admire your dedication to your craft and your flagrant disobedience of society’s expectations for you. La vie boheme.

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