The value of an arts education

How would you react if your child said to you “I want to go to arts school”?

For Robin Gerchman, an artist herself, the statement was a bit of a wake up call. Even she was plagued by doubts and financial concerns, which she expresses eloquently in an essay for Inside Higher Ed.

She writes:

I advocate for the importance of arts in education and against the severe budget cuts the arts are currently faced with from the perspective as both art educator and parent. Why then, do these seven words throw me into such a tailspin? Where will he work? How will he survive? The funding isn’t there now; what will it be like in four years when he graduates? Is he prepared for this ever-changing artistic world?

Gerchman, an assistant professor and director of dance at Cedar Crest College, has reassured many parents that their dance major daughters will be just fine. But when her own son utters his intentions to pursue a career in the arts, she momentarily balks, worrying that his artistic passion will not be enough to sustain him financially.

My son is now entering an artistic world that has been enduring a tug of war with politics for the past nine years. He personally experienced this after working diligently on his portfolio submission to the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts. After waiting patiently for a response to his submission, he had the rug pulled out from under him. During the week the admission letters were supposed to be sent out, he was told by his school guidance counselor that funding for the school had been cut with the budget changes.

Ultimately, to Gerchman’s relief, her son chooses a liberal arts college over a conservatory, and to double major in the arts and something more pragmatic.

How interesting that through this my son is the one that taught me the lesson. Yes, being an art major will open his eyes to the world in a way that he has not viewed it before. Yes, double-majoring with something “else” will give him an opportunity to merge his thoughts from discipline to discipline and communicate his new findings to the world. It is not hypocrisy. I am not leading my son or my students astray. I will watch my students grow, along with my son, as educated artists. He will be fine and will flourish as the interdisciplinary artist he is already becoming. It’s time to let go and let him experience.

To read the full essay, click here.

Would you encourage or condone your child going to arts school? Why or why not?

  • Carolyn

    Yikes – the cost of my Alma mater has doubled since I got my degree in the mid 90’s. A painter with almost 100k in student debt is not going to have much time to paint. And time to practice the craft is necessary for even modest success. But if my child were very driven and demonstrated an early and sustained commitment I’d say ok.