The Creative Career Conundrum

In this era of media and entertainment, creative industries have bloomed like flowers in a lush spring.  With screens, signs, and lights glowing everywhere we look and televisions perched in most livingrooms, and, importantly, an internet of things dispensing streams of information at lightspeed, someone just walking in on this decade might think careers in creative fields like music, film, design, animation, and illustration would be gaining reputation and respect as fast as they’ve been growing.  However, a strange stigma persists.  Careers in science, tech, business, and medicine are still pushed as the standard of excellence and success while careers in the arts are downplayed and treated as unsuitable and frivolous for anyone wanting to make a real living. 

As an artist, writer, animation major, and general creative, I’ve been lucky to have a family and parents who have encouraged my trek down this path and believed in my potential to do wonderful things with it while also supporting myself.  They’ve given me the software, materials, and support I’ve needed to grow and pursue a career in film and animation.  However, not every aspiring artist, musician, or filmmaker is that lucky.  In high school, I saw so many talented creators pushed away from something they had a passion for and scooted towards math and science.  Even some of my peers in an animation program as competitive to get into and exalted as USC’s still have parents who don’t think highly of their decision to go into an artistic field and would prefer them to go into marketing, tech, or business. 

It’s easy to see that creative fields are growing, need talented people, and aren’t as impractical or low-paying as some would conjecture, so why the stigma?  Deciphering this is not a simple task; cultural and social things are just not simple.  However, some key culprits are at play holding the stigma in place: an unfamiliarness with the world of today, a dismissal of what is creative, flexible, and emotional in favor of what is solid, worklike, and established, and a push for a kind of success defined by social status and money.  One—the media bloom is still a very new phenomenon and people are not quite used to it.  It will take a while for our social impressions to refresh to what’s been going on with the media and job landscape.  When many of our parents and grandparents grew up, the screen’s presence was not nearly as pronounced and in some cases nearly nonexistent, and the importance of music, design, and video in all sorts of areas had not yet broken into the world.  Two—The arts are far too often relegated to the status of ‘hobbyish’, ‘decorative’, and ‘unnecessary,’ despite how they augment almost anything you could imaginably pair them with and how they move our souls even on their own as part of what makes us uniquely human.  Whatever happens to be more emotional, vulnerable, and humanistic is often subjugated in importance to what is heady, computational, and businesslike, and the arts are no exception.  Three—we still deal with the fundamental human dilemma of what truly defines success.  Though our values are shifting, we as a society still think of success and happiness in terms of high-class jobs, white picket fences, material possessions, and social status.  The arts aren’t as unprofitable as one might think, but it’s true that if you become a thriving doctor, people will hold you in some sort of awe and your job will pay you a ton.

Despite this stigma’s prolonged life, there is reason to be positive.  Excitement for our new world is mounting, and it is not just optimistic but realistic to look forward to social change that may finally dissolve the stigma and empower generations of creators and artists.