Have you hugged an art major today?

By Emma Claire Sohn

Chicago natives like myself have grown accustomed to a color palette not exceeding a sixty-percent gray in tone, a fact all too real to me as I stood, drizzled with rain droplets at the Winnetka Metra station this past week. But, as the Grateful Dead noted in their sole top 40 hit, “Every silver lining has a touch of gray.”

Like most facets of life, these things run both ways, and the brilliant ochre streaming from the damp tracks below me was enough to spur a tactile search through my purse for a camera that was in vain as the moment crumbled under the weight of a Wisconsin-bound commuter train.

This is the plague to which my peers and I succumb as art majors. We are constantly finding the silver lining amongst the grays of the world and battling an incessant internal nagging to capture these moments for a show-and-tell of sorts to those surrounding us. When this desire is coupled with a dash of raw talent an art major is born.

Unfortunately, our humble efforts in sharing our intimate ideas have left us estranged from the rest of the University. We are labeled as lazy, lethargic, incompetent and immature with no chance of landing a job not accompanied by the phrase, “Do you want fries with that?”

But our closest friends can attest we are actually workaholics, distinguished from our peers by a unique breed of commitment and motivation. We are accountable only to our own personally adjusted and infinite ambitions.

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Despite criticisms we know that time is needed to manufacture our original ideas and constant effort is required to apply our raw emotions to the real world.

For example, I’m majoring in industrial design, a field with a focus lying in revamping current products to address the needs of society’s nuanced and ever-changing demands.

Industrial designers work very closely with engineers to construct practical yet aesthetically pleasing solutions to problems ranging from human ergonomics to sustainability. And I know firsthand that my colleagues and myself could’ve constructed a scale model of the Titanic in the time we’ve poured into our studios, hunched over epoxy, duct tape and chicken wire.

But we’re most certainly not the only ones elevating our artistic abilities to a more practical place. Graphic designers meld psychology, typography and visual elements to create an effective means of communicating information. Art historians engage with the heart of our past in studying works created by artists active in the social movements of their day.

Photography majors instantaneously document agitating moments and provocative images which are easily reproduced to stir the population at large. We are an idealistic group, each individually bent on our own unique world-changing capabilities.

And according to Daniel Pink’s book, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Control the Future,” we are just as capable of getting a job as any other university graduate. Pink’s principles are relatively simple. He recognizes that certain skills are learned, while other qualities are inherent and individualized and cites the relative importance of each of these skills to the market. For example, an actuary can calculate the likelihood of me suffering major physical damage while model-making on a band saw, but this work is rooted in a knowledge base almost universally attainable.

When an artist brings their brush (literally or figuratively) to the canvas, they are expressing ideas that cannot be replicated by anyone else in the world.

Skills like math, science and engineering are easily outsourced to aptly educated individuals abroad whose compensation demands are far less than college graduates in the U.S. But the creativity required of professions rooted in the arts more often requires a character exclusive to an individual creative mind.

So go ahead, hug an art major. We’re more than kids with the plastic-framed glasses reading Kafka in the corner of the coffee shop and the pursuers of the Urban Outfitters sale rack. We are students with a vision and a vengeance but generally are a friendly bunch.