A Reluctant Defense of the Arts: An Editorial

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, March 26, 2024

I used to be an engineering major. That lasted two semesters. One would think the countless hours spent in the library would have taught me a lesson, but I took a little over a year before I decided that, like engineering, machining was not for me.

When I was young, I wanted to write fantasy novels. The influence of Christian authors like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis deeply inspired me. But once I became older, I didn’t think writing would pay very well. I am one quarter Southerner on my maternal grandmother’s side, so being unable to provide for a household didn’t appeal to me. It probably wouldn’t have appealed to Southern women either.

But after failing at many other things, (barista, woodworker) and almost succeeding at one other (I worked in a very lovely plant nursery for about four years) I decided if I was going to fail, I should probably fail at something enjoyed. I enrolled at Troy University, for no other reason than it had an English department within driving distance. My one practical concession was that I had a minor in professional writing.

And strangely, I have been able to make rent. I’m convinced that God has given me the talent to write for a reason, otherwise I don’t think I would have been able to manage it. Which, I suppose, reminds me of an experience I had recently.

I was stressed out after one of the most challenging assignments I have ever been given and walked in late to a murder mystery play at The Windsor. I confess, I didn’t understand the plot. I probably wouldn’t entirely remember it if I did. But I was transfixed by the characters. Their outfits, gestures, everything about them held my attention, causing my stress and worry to melt away. The arts don’t seem to generate much money, but people need to care for them. Hollywood is certainly spending a lot of money on material I wouldn’t quite qualify as art.

It would help if artists were a little more pragmatic. They say rock bands are T-shirt sellers, and while some might call that selling out, I think artists would fare a lot better if they leaned into developing practical marketing strategies for their art. But regardless of how they do it, we need artists. We need people who reflect the creativity of their Creator, however imperfectly, into the world around them. Maybe they will even find a way to make a living at it.