Our president has suggested, and is still planning on, cutting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. There are many financial and cultural reasons as to why this does not make sense; for example, the NEA is a mere 0.012% of national spending, so its removal poses a greater loss than any minute likelihood of gain. However, this is not about the federal budget or the economy. This is a direct attack to artists, both personally and communally, and I will not pretend it is anything otherwise.
As an artist in career and mentality, I have fought for my right to exist and create for as long as I can remember. Within my family, any mention of my work is quickly rebutted with pleas and argumentation because my parents are afraid that I will not be able to support myself, let alone a future family. I still remember being forced to change the order of words and sentences in my college application essays, simply because I had put my interests in studio art before my interests in science. When I asked why it mattered, their response was, “It means you love art more than science, and that will hurt your admission.” As my parents are immigrants coming from an ex-communist country geared towards scientific and mathematic production, I can understand their mentality and excuse it.
This social stigma abounds within our generation as well, which is even more hurtful. I have had peers tell me that my major “is so easy” and “Wow, you must have a lot of free time,” and “What you do doesn’t require any thought or effort at all!” I’m tired of smiling politely and answering, “No, you are wrong, my art classes are my hardest classes, and I have taken Dr. Patty’s chemistry class, survived C++, and clawed my way through upper level biology and psychology classes,” or, “I spend more hours in my studio or in the classrooms working than I spend on any other homework for my other two majors combined, and I get less course credit for greater class time.” The worst part: this has happened to me within Meadows as well, among students studying other art forms also trying to make a living with their craft. I have seen friends face discrimination from larger institutions, including SMU itself, because they were studying art and were not thought to be capable enough, even though they were well past qualified.
If the NEA is cut, we will be collateral damage. One of my degrees will be even more worthless, my hard work even more undermined. Instead of moving forward, we will be regressing. The fact that we, as a society, are even considering this means that we are regressing. We take two steps forward just to take eight more steps back.
I have been silent for too long. I am sick of smiling and politely fighting for my right to exist as an artist and a creative alongside the doctors, lawyers, and engineers of this world. I should not have to justify my intelligence or competence.
This is not merely another article in a campus publication, filled with impersonal facts and analyses. This is a scream of frustration and a plea.