To Artists Scared to go Hungry

By Delanie Dugan ‘18

Many students who are soon-to-be high school graduates follow their passions and make a career out of an activity they love to do. Yet, for those who chose to take the path of a career in art, the choice comes with the fear of going hungry.

A stereotype surrounds the word “artist” and those who want to make art their source of living. Today, almost subconsciously, people picture artists as someone who scrapes the bottom of the barrel trying to find any means of survival while they devote their lives to their penniless work. However, art careers can bring in a decent salary. In 2015 the median pay for a graphic designer was $46,900, photographer $31,710, and illustrator $53,624.

Author Jeff Goins of the book Real Artists Don’t Starve added that the 1847 book Scènes de la Vie de Bohème by Henri Murger “launched the concept of the Starving Artist into the public’s understanding … [and to] this day, it endures as the model for what we imagine … of the word artist”.

Today, 170 years after Murger’s book, the career of an artist continues to have the same condescension. Author Catherine Orer from the Huffington Post states the starving artist myth “[is] a barrier for many talented teenagers and young adults who will not pursue a career in the arts from fear of not being able to support themselves and … their families. Many will major in a more ‘socially accepted’ program and pursue a career they don’t enjoy.”

The world needs designers, creators, illustrators, photographers, sculptors, and painters to continue the creativity. For the high school juniors and seniors who have a paintbrush in one hand and a college application in the other, know that the fear of going hungry doesn’t mean artists has to deprive themselves of their dreams.