Pop music blares from the courtyard as crowds shuffle on to their next classes at Santa Clara University. This group has spent its time dressing up for class, wearing the brands – Patagonia, Lulu, Vineyard Vines. There’s a band playing (probably) at the next quarterly Love Jones, and there sure is plenty of art on campus, though it might take an unusually keen eye to appreciate the paintings hanging outside the Benson bathrooms which have become scenery enough they have started blending in with the beige wall paint.
Nobody has seriously considered Santa Clara University an arts school. At SCU, we have 42 studio art majors, making them roughly 1 in every 105. Chances are you aren’t one of those majors and aren’t close with one of those majors, making enthusiastic support for the arts rather sparse. Without studying art in the classroom, creating art requires free-time, which can be hard to come by. It’s much better to have the class to push you. But without this being a realistic possibility for various reasons including parents who cry, “Study art? Maybe when you start paying your own tuition!” Or maybe you’re an engineer carefully contemplating your only elective for the next two years and really just want to get down and dirty with an archeology class.
At some “artsy schools” around one in three students are majoring in some kind of art, be it studio or performing. On these campuses, even if you aren’t the one creating art, a friend is, making extracurricular participation in the arts easy and supporting the arts even easier. Support and practice are complimentary; those who don’t participate, support, which encourages those making art to continue, while those making art actively encourage those only supporting to jump into the mix and get creative; it’s circular.
There are plenty of reasons why the arts might not be practical for you to study within a classroom but it’s undeniable that there is a lot to learn and gain from the arts. There’s a high degree of therapy to it. Getting lost in the moment while creating art can be a liberating escape from the everyday anxieties of college life. Your mind will constantly be flipping over and playing with new ideas and imagery in a positive way. It has health benefits as well. Drawing or painting can improve depression and burnout, and making and listening to music activates the same area of the brain as chocolate, opium and orgasms.
If you look down upon the arts, I challenge you to admire those artists bold enough to shape the world through their own creative expression for your own benefit. Don’t let yourself get too caught up in the serious business of life. Taking the time to experience art is essential. Start by showing support for the arts – go see the spring play; get a team together for the student film festival this spring; go to one of our student band’s concerts; go to the museum on campus; or organize your own arts event.
There are so many ways to show support, and perhaps once you’ve uncovered the joy in that, you’ll find the inspiration to participate.