Hungry artists? How Academic Environments Affect Students’ Mental Well-Being – The Daily Utah Chronicle
Oh, how we love art! Some of us are fortunate enough to study art on a professional level, especially under the guidance and support of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. Student art is a remarkable device, as breathtaking works fill the walls of the Gittins Gallery, the stage at Kingsbury Hall and even the cover of our newspaper.
However, art students often get a bad rap in the professional sphere, plagued by the âstarving artistâ trope reinforced by passive aggressive uncles at the Thanksgiving dinner table. The truth is, art is fascinating to study, and the vulnerability of expression is such a challenge for students that it can take serious mental health consequences.
âThere are a lot of things that have to do with what you put in itâ¦ I feel very driven to give my all when sometimes I’m so exhausted and I don’t want it to look like I don’t care. Â»Declared Isabelle Siebeneck, a student in the acting training program. âFor me,â they continued, âas someone who’s already so hard on myself, it’s hard to step back and exist in a world where you’re trying to get an ‘A ‘ from someone.”
Art, of course, is subjective in nature, but this subjectivity can manifest itself negatively when forced into academia. âI don’t really take mental health days – I don’t say, ‘Oh, I want to sleep,'” Siebeneck said. âTaking a break is giving up, which you don’t do with art. You don’t give up.
The narrative that an artist has to struggle or suffer to produce emotionally dense art is extremely damaging, especially for students. It can take serious and negative mental health turns, even if there is no passing grade or failure involved. “If I’m in a time where I don’t know what I want to do , it’s very dishearteningâ¦ No one is creative 24/7, âsaid Max Hubbard, art major. Students shouldn’t feel pressured into choosing between growing in their art and meeting a deadline.
âWhen the going gets tough, it’s hard to be an artist,â Hubbard continued. Beyond the unnatural coercion for art to be cast on a point scale, the vulnerability of being an artist is exacerbated by a classroom setting and can rob student artists of their sanity.
âBeing vulnerable is such a big part of acting, especially when you’re supposed to be vulnerable in front of hundreds of people or in front of someone rating you,â Siebeneck said, adding, âIt requires a healthy person. and confident, being vulnerable and creating.
Based on student testimonials, we tackle the discovery that a growing artist can do their best when nourished by their environment. This is especially true for students, as the university must simultaneously challenge and support its students without sacrificing their brains and hearts. For many, this empowerment stems from the support of individual identity.
“The theater department works hard to be more inclusive of all identities. Honestly, just hearing a teacher use “they” to refer to me was a positive experience … [It] allows me to be more vulnerable and in turn makes me feel better about my job, âsaid Siebeneck.
Hubbard shares that being at U has been “a bit surreal. My teachers are so nice and the conversations about art [have] been so inspiring and exciting for my future as an art studentâ¦ It has a positive impact on mental health.
Again, students strongly believe that artists in an academic setting need to be supported by the class to feel comfortable enough to accept the vulnerabilities that come with art. âIt’s exciting because we’re all in the same headspace, because we’re all art specialists looking at each other’s art from an artist’s perspective,â said Hubbard.
âI was able to do a scene where my character was queer, and it was so good because it was really the first time I was in a role that had intimacy in a romantic sense that I was in. was comfortable. Being able to explore queerness in my job has been a very positive experience, âsaid Siebeneck.
This foundation of a positive work environment has produced successful graduates, such as Malithi Gunawardena, Outstanding Senior of the Department of Art and Art History, Spring 2021. âThe education I have received has me. really prepared to work in terms of knowing [how] to manage and manage mental health and also in terms of technical skills, âsaid Gunawardena. âIt’s relieving. I feel like I’m really well prepared for the world and what the workplace makes me do â,
Hearing a successful graduate shines a light on those of us who are fully in the grip of pursuing higher education. When asked for advice for current students, Gunawardena smiled and said, “Learn that creative confidence takes timeâ¦ Work hard, be kind.” The bottom line is that learning to create art from a vulnerable internal place requires a supportive environment. Here, art and artist can flourish.