Money, money, money, it makes the world go round. It is the inescapable truth that arts students have to face while weighing up if years of internships are worth getting the jobs they really want. Career progression is one long ladder for everyone, but with government cuts to the arts it feels like they are purposely trying to force students away from creative subjects. Kick them back down the ladder. Putting hardships aside, it comes down to one question: does it pay to be an artist? Literally, the answer is yes. It just depends on what kind of artist you are.
Television tells students poverty is inevitable as a creative. They watch Sex and the City and see Carrie buying Vogue instead of food. Then they put on an episode of Friends and see Joey unemployed for the majority of the 10 seasons having to borrow money from Chandler. Of course students know none of this is real, these are fictional people living fictional lives. The characters could be earning monopoly money and it wouldn’t make a difference. But this struggle is the overwhelming depiction of the arts. Similarly, outside of a television screen, being an artist, at least a struggling one, doesn’t come with the benefit of cold hard cash.
This is because, unfortunately, demand and supply are used to dictate wages so some subjects are more employable and that’s just that. The world is not fair and skills aren’t valued for worth but how much other people, not always intelligent people, want them. But let’s not forget the existing demand for the arts. The domestic market value of the fashion industry is estimated at 66 billion pounds. No one can mock that kind of money. How is the cash concentrated? Most likely in the pockets of both arts and sciences graduates. Huge fashion houses need accountants as much as they need designers. Companies can’t exist without both. Therefore, saying there’s no money in arts is simply untrue. If you’re an artist with a savings account and strong work ethic, there’s no reason why your life should be different to any other profession. It can pay to be an artist, just an artist with a job.
It’s not easy and not always fun, but no profession is. Government grants would help and money for value would be nice. Though all we can really hope for is enough cash to tide us over. Then artists can keep working to climb up five more rungs on the ladder before we get kicked 3 back down. Just like everyone else.