Monday, December 3, 2018

Being an Artist at Duke - Victoria W

In my three years here, art has steadily meant more and more to me.

I’ve always seen art as something I wanted to do that was not attainable—the more I wanted to spend my time painting, the guiltier I would feel for using up time that I “should” have spent working on assignments that were actually going to be due one day. This, of course, assumes that said art was on my own and not for its own class. Taking a step even further, if I ever even entertained the idea of pursuing art full time, the ingrained expectations of a secure tech job would always eclipse that.

I certainly don’t know exactly what I want out of life, but I know one thing: it isn’t to work in the tech industry—software engineering or summat like that. Still, that’s what I’ve been going for. The only consolation has been that I know I’ll keep art with me—not as the main career, but as something that I’ll always enjoy.

It’s like that too, while at Duke. My main focus, against my better wishes, is probably always going to be my computer science major. And yet, I’ve tried hard to always insert something I enjoy into every semester: a painting class, a creative writing class (twice!), a Polish class, and this time—a drawing class. To me, being an ”artist” has always been a means to keep me sane. As classes have gotten harder and schedules busier, I’ve increasingly counted on being able to fall back on art. Now, more than ever, I appreciate the value of having hobbies.

I wouldn’t say right away that there’s a community that comes along with “being an artist at Duke.” Fine arts, specifically. Back in freshman year, a group of painters (including myself) had a long discussion concerning Duke’s focus on the performing arts over the fine arts—we even tried to petition Duke to expand the painting program. I think it's an ongoing effort. Sure, there are a ton of DUU Visarts programming opportunities this semester, more than last, but those often attract a certain demographic, and a ton of hobby / independent artists miss out. To no fault of DUU—many artists simply prefer working alone. Still, I’m definitely glad that these art events are happening and bringing different artists on campus together. The visual arts program might still not be as large as we’d like, but at least the community is forming :) 

Taking this class has been a different experience—that’s the first word that comes to mind. It’s different to do art on a deadline. There’s always that component of stress over having to get work done, but once I start and really get into things, it’s never a burden. There’s also the added bonus of having all these pieces churned out at the end of the semester—without deadlines, I likely wouldn’t have finished a single piece. I’m glad I had that subtle prod in the background encouraging me to keep at it. Different blends into rewarding. 

As a busy, tired, stressed Duke student, art has never meant so much more.

Ta for now! x

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