Rebekka Underwood is a former Salt Lake Community College student and an aspiring animator. Shes said she has always had a fondness for art. Underwood started ballet at a young age and continued with it through her teenage years. When she was 17 years old, she was on the verge of a career in ballet, auditioning for some of the more respected ballet groups in the nation.
She said she was always asked by the people around her if a career in ballet is a realistic option for her future.
Underwood said she decided to give up ballet because of the strain it put on her body and focused her talents on other arts such as designing and animation. She said she thought the questions about her career choices would go away.
They did not. Underwood said she was still asked the same questions about her planned career in art throughout her college years.
The idea that art, dance and music degrees are niche is something many artists fear and face Underwood said.
“There is this idea that art should be a hobby,” Underwood said. “People who pursue art degrees are seen as useless.”
In 2014, there were 2 million art graduates, with only 1.2 million traditional art jobs – like drawing or painting – in the United States, and only 10 percent of artists make their living off these jobs, according to study conducted in 2015 by Artist Report Back.
Additionally, one million art jobs are currently being filled with people without a bachelor’s degree in art.
Many students, including art students, do not have a job related to their major in college. Only 27 percent of college graduates end up in a field related to their major, according to the Washington Post article in 2013.
Roma Watkins, a dance major from Paloma Community College in San Diego, California, said artists need to adapt to modern entertainment to stay employed.
“I learned valuable skills from being backstage such as leadership, team management, crisis mitigation and being cool under pressure,” Watkins said. “All of these skills have served me very well. I am able to make a livable wage simply from teaching dance, performing in shows and working at theatres. I also use these skills daily in my company.”
Jean Glasser, a University of Utah photography major, said there is a false idea that art degrees are impractical and will prevent a person from providing for themselves in the future.
“In people’s minds, art degrees may not help students as much in the future like with other ‘practical’ degrees,” Glasser said. “[They think] that people with practical degrees will at least still find a job that will give them a life that will help them live comfortably and they think with an art degree, you won’t live comfortably.”
Miranda Lewin, a Westminster College music studies major, said she believes it takes more than just talent to create art. She argues that just like science, art is about practice and commitment.
“[Art] takes time and it takes dedication and it takes brain cells,” Lewin said. “It takes math, it takes all these things but there’s definitely talent and craft.”
Rebekka Underwood said that the problem with stigma around art degrees is people don’t think they require intelligence.
“People don’t see art as an intellectual pursuit when it is,” Underwood said. “Especially because it’s specific knowledge that people don’t look at in an intellectual way anymore.”