photo collage c.ascher
How many parents have reacted with restrained horror upon hearing their child announce “I want to be an artist”? You, reader, might well be one of them. Perhaps you stood there, or maybe you will soon stand there, momentarily regretting having asked your son or daughter, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
How many children who answered “I want to be an artist,” when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” had their self-determination crushed by parents (or teachers) who re-directed them into other lives? Maybe you were one of these children. How did your parents react?
Here are typical, self-identity destroying reactions to children's announcements that they “want to be an artist”:
1) No worries, you’ll grow out of it.
2) You’ll starve! You need a real profession.
3) Absolutely not. You must follow in MY footsteps!
4) Don’t be silly. You’ll need to be supporting us in our old age.
5) You are going to be a … (fill in the profession) and I will have no argument!
6) And become a selfish, arrogant human being?
7) And maybe become a gay or lesbian homeless drug addict? Is that what you want?
8) No child of mine will be a sissy! Hockey, now that’s a real profession!
9) What will the family and friends think?
10) Well dear, talent is something you’re born with.
11) You have to be rich to make it as an artist.
12) Not until you bring up your marks in all your other school subjects!
13) Only if you become an industrial designer or maybe a graphic artist. How about a game designer? An engineer! An architect! That pays well!
14) Happiness and fulfillment don’t put a roof over your head. Believe me, I know!
15) This life was good enough for me, it will be good enough for you!
16) Your teachers haven’t noted a special talent. Aptitude tests point you to … (fill in an employable job)
17) Oh dear. That doesn’t LOOK like a … (whatever the viewer thinks the artwork should portray)
18) Well then I won’t pay for your education.
What were you told? How did it affect you? Did you become an artist anyway? Do you regret following or not following your own ambition?
Don’t tell me, As an artist, an art teacher and a gallery curator, I hear the longing, the regret, the self-doubt every time I meet someone who believed, accepted or lived by any one of these or similar assertions.
And the worst of it? These parents (teachers) convince themselves they’re acting in the children’s best interest!