Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Don’t Belittle Arts Degrees

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Don’t Belittle Arts Degrees

The Alexandria Gazette Packet, April 5, 2018 edition, featured an article on Alexandria’s art installations project, “Old Town, New Art: Commission approves developer contributions for Arts District.” As much as I am pleased to see that the arts continue to play an important role in the city’s culture, the author of this article perpetuated a false view of artists’ educational experiences and their post-academic careers.

In the lead paragraph, the writer appears to belittle an arts education by restating the misconception that students must major in a “practical degree” to be a success in their careers. With some due diligence, he would learn that those with strong academic background in the arts, do have stimulating and fulfilling careers that meet their needs and goals.

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) studies artistic careers and how young artists advance in rapidly changing arts fields. As a retired associate dean and current adjunct faculty member of George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, I can confirm that artists from that college, and others, do engage in a wide array of stimulating, arts-centered careers. Labor Department statistics, arts organizations, even the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, study careers in the arts; these opportunities are diverse and rich in creativity.

I compliment this initiative’s recognition of the significance of how the arts build community. Many cities and towns across the nation rely on the arts to develop communities, neighborhoods. Sometimes the projects are financed by federal, local governments; sometimes the projects are funded by developers, churches, patrons – much noted historical significance. The City of Alexandria’s Old Town grew tremendously after the Torpedo Factory became a center for artistic development.

Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. have respected research on the arts, many diverse careers in the arts and arts management, and vibrant arts/community relationships. The step that Alexandria is taking is a welcome addition to this vibrancy.

Dr. Victoria N. Salmon

Associate Dean Emerita

College of Visual and Performing Arts

George Mason University