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As a Furness fresher last year I, of course, was eager (forced) to participate in the twice-annual challenge that is the 15-hour bar crawl. Like all college events I returned home with obscene things written all over my clothes, arms and face, including one particular comment on my back next to ‘I have aids’ which stuck with me for a while – ‘Art is a real degree… honest!’ Of course, like any good Art student I laughed it off, fully aware that my degree is essentially completely useless.
Now and again, however, I do question whether spending over £3,000 a year on tuition fees for a seemingly pointless degree is really a sensible use of money, especially faced with the alarming statistic that most of Fine Art graduates manage to land themselves jobs in what the Guardian describes as ‘Retail/Catering’ work (probably code name for Poundland).
This particularly hits home when talking to elderly relatives or friends of elderly relatives – an experience that many Arts students can probably sympathise with – the disappointed-yet-trying-to-still-seem-interested ‘Ohh…’ that follows you explaining what you’re doing with your life. To make it worse, I try to make myself sound more esteemed by adding in the ‘Fine’ to ‘Art’… unfortunately on more than one occasion aforementioned elderly relatives have confused this with ‘Finance’ – a misinterpretation that I’ve often ran with to avoid embarrassment on both parts.
To be honest, though, I’m very glad I’m not studying Finance. Or Law, or Geography, or Medicine (even though I’m sure my Gran would love me more if I did). After all, I’m learning about some of the most influential and interesting people that ever existed, and the nature of the Arts at the moment means that I’m practically doing a degree in Philosophy too. In fact, getting a good degree in an Arts subject unfortunately requires you to be super clever as well as super talented, and pretty much encourages you to challenge the nature of everything; it’s mind-hurting stuff that is not to be taken lightly.
So, okay, maybe we are learning and thinking about some important things that perhaps deem us just a tad more worthy of academic respect, but at the end of the day does Art really make that much impact? I didn’t think so until I stumbled upon this little gem from the living legend Stephen Fry:
“Oscar Wilde quite rightly said, ‘All art is useless’. And that may sound as if that means it’s something not worth supporting. But if you actually think about it, the things that matter in life are useless. Love is useless. Wine is useless. Art is the love and wine of life. It is the extra, without which life is not worth living.”
So don’t be disheartened, Arties. Maybe we’ll save lives with sculptures, music, films and plays by reducing suicide cases. And as for you medics and statisticians, I know you’re secretly jealous that you can’t spend all day flinging paint at a wall…