Dear parents (and other authority figures),

We know you may not be artistically gifted yourselves. You may not easily understand how we artists think and process life, which is often different (not better or worse) than you. Although you love us, you may not understand what we need to hear. Just like anyone else, we as human beings are designed to need affirmation that our special giftings — for us it’s our art talents — are valuable and worthwhile. 

We know you mean well when you say things like: “You are very smart – why don’t you become a medical doctor or a lawyer? Art is okay, but it’s not really important. Do something valuable with your life. Do something that will make a difference in the world and actually pay the bills.”  To those of us who are designed to be dancers or poets or painters or actors, this says that we and our unique talents are not really valuable. 

We don’t blame you. The world (our culture) does not validate the arts or artists as important contributors to society. A typical example of this is when a school system’s budget runs short of money, almost always the arts programs are eliminated first. But this is terribly wrong.

Our world desperately needs us to communicate through our arts gifts about truth and justice and beauty. Artists do have a significant role to play in recording, and even helping create, positive and life-giving culture. 

Please encourage us as we explore our role as cultural communicators by helping us identify and learn to express well the communication gifts and talents we’ve been given.  We as artists know that it may often drive you a little crazy that we process life — even think — differently than lots of other folks. When faced with a problem to solve, we artists often “see” in our imaginations what could be a great solution, but we may not be as strong at seeing the step-by-step process of getting to that solution.  Sometimes we “right-brained” thinkers get irritated when others who are “left-brained” thinkers challenge the way we think about and process life. But we commit ourselves to pursuing patience instead of irritation. We know we need to partner with more scientific step-by-step people to help create solutions to the world’s problems.  The world does need us sensitive and visionary artists. When art is good, it can help us “see” into the future and help find good and equitable solutions for the many challenges we face. We all need to respect how each other is made. Each of us (including you) have different abilities and talents, and all of us need to have a voice.

So please help us to use our unique artistic voices. The arts often explore deep feelings and emotions — both highs and lows, celebrations and grievings. Contemporary culture around us seems to be more and more hardened to caring about what is going on deep in people’s hearts.  Unresolved anger and anxiety permeate much of life today.

One of the purposes of the arts is to dig into these very real problems and bring a deeper understanding of what’s going on. The arts don’t just bring information for people’s minds to process, they bring heart-level communication.  Being an artist is a much-needed, and even sacred, calling.

Please, dear parents and other authority figures, let us be ourselves.  We need you to honor us and our special talents. Yes: we know that we need to find a way to earn a living, but our yearnings to speak out about truth and beauty to the world will always be present in our lives.  We recognize that we’re a little different and sometimes hard to understand, but we have been given a job to do that is very important in today’s world. Please let our voices be heard – voices that will speak to people’s hearts about beauty and truth and social justice and dignity. Your affirmation brings us freedom to be all that we can be!

With much affection and respect,

An Artist

***

Looking for more about whether art can make a difference? Check out Can MY Art Make a Difference? And don’t forget to subscribe for bimonthly blog posts sent straight to your inbox!

Authors: Dick Ryan & Aubrey Leaman

Photo credits: Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash; Marius Masalar on Unsplash; Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

One thought on “An Open Letter to the Worried Parents of an Artist

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