Loading the Canon #14 by Helena-Anne Hittel
“Is There Really A Market For That?”
Well, Drunken Odysseans, it’s almost here! I never thought I’d be saying this, but its tomorrow! 120 or so credit hours later, I’m finally going to experience it. That wonderful day of the semester degree-seekers cherish as much as a birthday or favorite holiday. Damn straight! It’s graduation season! Time for those of us walking to obsess over final grades, decide how we’ll decorate our mortarboards, check, double-check and triple-check out degree audits, fight for extra tickets for family members, and think about employment in our fields…or otherwise.
We have probably all heard this phrase at some point in time, especially after declaring our college majors. “Can you really get a job doing that?” Doctors, lawyers, engineers’ families rejoice. “Our little (insert name here) is gonna be so successful!” What would happen, though, if your little (name) declared an English major? Fine Arts? Music? Would you be as ecstatic and pledge your undying support of their decision to live happily ever after doing what they love, or would you inwardly cringe, hope they marry rich and wonder how the hell they’re going to pay the bills?
America today seems to spend all of their ripping on the Humanities majors. The ever- increasing want of STEM careers (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) has only made the Humanities look frivolous. Forbes published a list of The 10 Worst College Majors, stating the unemployment rates for undergrads and graduates alike. Lo and behold–all of these are humanities. English clocks in at #10, Fine Arts at #3, History at #9. You get the idea.
However, they’re not entirely useless majors. Forbes looks at just the numbers associated with these different fields, but they neglect to note the intellectual takeaway. Take, for example, a course of study in English. Whether you’ve studied literature or not, English is vital. Communication in English is critical. Study engineering or science, but there’s a fair amount of writing involved in most every discipline. Without language, there’s no transmission of ideas. Point: you can be an absolutely stellar STEM professional, but if you’re unable to effectively communicate research, what good will that degree really do you?
Another example (and one close to me), is art. Fine Art, art history, graphic art, all of the above and many more. Art, as I’ve explored in Loading the Canon #3, is not easy. There might not seem to be much of a market for the artist. Did that deter the young hopefuls with charcoal on their faces and wicked turpentine headaches? No way. As long as there is art, there will be artists. The same goes for Art History. No visible market, yet I spent 2 1/2 years in the same classroom taking notes and identifying artistic styles. This has made me an extremely organized person brain-wise (which is not so evident if you could see my closet). Artists make fantastic archivists because they know what goes into a work and what can break it down. Those of us fortunate enough to work in gallery settings are good at organizing tasks, cataloguing, communicating verbally, and thinking logistically.
So, when I declared an Art History major (I might fall into either History or Fine Arts here), I probably worried some people. I was lucky enough, at that time I declared, to have parents that understood me. We talked it through. Neither of them panicked or cringed or was secretly let down because Helena-Anne is really bad at math and has no fondness for the human body’s inner workings. I was given a pragmatic approach to my major. Instead of that awful phrase I’ve titled this work with, I got, “What would you like to do?” Thanks to the UCF Art Gallery, I know what I want to do. Even if I don’t end up in my field, so what? I’ve got skills that, thanks to my major and my gallery stint, will carry over and make me a marketable candidate for wherever I end up.
Besides, Calculus is overrated, anyway.
Helena-Anne Hittel (Episode 35, essay) is an Art History Major at the University of Central Florida and Intern at the UCF Art Gallery.