The Undervaluation of Arts and Creatives

A career in the arts and creatives is most likely frowned upon by most people. We’re not just talking about careers in graphic arts or website design and development, which are in fact, great career opportunities especially given that we’re in a pandemic right now. These jobs allow people to work remotely and provide for their families during these uncertain times. 

We’re talking about a career in the arts, creatives, and performing industries. 

Childhood Dreams 

When you ask kids the question of what they want to be when they grow up, you get all sorts of answers ranging from impressive to logical to impractical to outlandish. 

Some typical answers are: 

  • Doctor
  • Teacher
  • Fireman
  • Soldier
  • Superhero
  • Ninja
  • Princess
  • Dancer
  • Model
  • Artist
  • Gamer
  • YouTuber
  • Clown

Of course, there are tons more but these are some of the typical answers you’d get for asking a question like that. Notice how some of them are great practical choices — doctor, teacher, fireman, and soldier — from a responsible adult’s perspective but the rest are regarded as nonsense — just something that comes with childhood. Nothing more. 

But while a superhero, a ninja, and a princess might be a bit of a stretch, the rest are actually quite doable given the world we live in today. Yes, even being a clown. 

A lot of us had dreams of becoming an actor, painter, stuntman, singer, and other professions related to the arts and creatives but as we grew older, we were discouraged from going down that road. Several reasons presented are financial instability, low to zero benefits, or things like that should only be pursued as hobbies. 

The bottom line is, people have no respect for creatives and artists. This group of people is highly undervalued and almost all of them are underpaid for their output. 

The Bumpy Road to Creative Careers

A lot of professional artists, whatever field they’re in, experience some sort of discrimination and prejudice. Their jobs aren’t considered by many as real jobs. People often think that getting into a career in creatives puts their future at risk because there’s just not enough money in it. 

We have been conditioned to think that only the truly exceptional can have a successful career as an artist. We’re talking about the 1%. The Hollywood actors. The professional singers are signed by record labels. The professional dancers who appear in music videos, TV shows, and movies and have a huge following on social media. The Picassos and Van Goghs. The Spielbergs, Camerons, and Tarantinos.

The rest of us just settle for scraps like the performers on street corners who pass the hat after each performance and move on to the next location. 

This is why most people refuse to pay artists for what they’re actually worth because some of us have been unconsciously trained to see them as lesser beings. People go crazy when they are charged by an artist hundreds of dollars for a drawing or design. Clients find it outrageous when a performer gives them fair talent fee rates. They have the audacity to give a snide remark about how “it’s only a song or a dance, how hard could it be?” 

Most people have no idea what goes on in the creative process and how these artists have prepared and trained for it all their lives. Some even expect artists to work for free

They don’t consider all the time and money that went into formal art education and training. It took them years of countless hours of learning, practice, and experimenting to get to the level they’re on. It took a lot of their energy to pursue their passion and excel even on days when they’re highly demotivated and uninspired. It cost them so much money between paying for proper education and training, buying the materials and tools they use for their craft, and building a decent professional portfolio to present to clients. 

And most people believe that artists are not worth paying good money,

A calling, not just a career

But no matter how belittled, underpaid, undervalued, and unappreciated they are, these career and professional artists keep pushing on because to them, it’s not just a career. It’s a calling. It is their sole reason for existence. 

The funny thing is, while almost everyone put artists down and thought so little of them, when the pandemic hit, almost everyone turned to the arts to maintain their sanity. People watched and streamed movies and shows. They turned on their speakers and played music to help them relax. They read books. They took up hobbies that allowed them to explore their creative and artistic sides. 

It is only in this pandemic that people started to really appreciate what artists and creatives have to offer to society. Their work served as anchors for a lot of people that made the lockdowns bearable. 

Artists do not define success the way everyone else does. It’s not just about the money, stability, benefits, fame, awards, and all the other things most people base success on. It goes beyond that. To them, their ultimate reward is to see people happy and touched by their work. And as long as they see people enjoying and appreciating their work, as long as their art inspires and motivates people, they’re living out what they were put on earth for. 

A career in the arts, creatives, and performing industry is definitely not for the weak. You will need to have a strong sense of purpose and resolute will to be successful in it. The challenges you will face are great but the chance to really live out your passion and purpose is rewarding and fulfilling.