Encourage Young Artists

I have worked with kids in almost all of my jobs since I was 15. I have seen, heard, and even said, “Wow, you could be a painter!” or “Wow, you could grow up and be an actress!” But oftentimes, we stop saying this by the time kids turn into teenagers. Parents or teachers will privately say, “Well, they’re not going to make it,” meaning either their kid won’t become famous or “successful,” or “they just won’t survive being a poor starving artist.” Here’s the thing though, in fear for the future success of a generation, have we stifled their dreams, talents, and happiness? 


As a very young millennial, I find myself surrounded by people who did not have anyone around them normalizing art as a career. Once they could understand what a “job” or “career” was, being a painter or actress was off the table. It wasn’t normal. Only the best of the best do that. You have to suffer for it. Why be a poor starving artist when you can have stability and a good career? Anyone can be an artist, just like anyone can be an accountant. Yes, you’ll have to learn and grow and work extremely hard, but everyone does that for the things they love or want or believe in. Being an artist can be raw sometimes, making you feel as if you’re suffering, but that is the beauty of it. And, you absolutely do not have to be “poor and starving” to be an artist. 


A job or career in the field of the arts is just as valid and essential as every other job or career. It should be an option for anyone and everyone who wishes to pursue it. I can’t believe we aren’t encouraging more people to be artists — it’s so fulfilling and offers so much to yourself, your community, and the world at large. 


After graduating from college, I joined Dance Waterloo as a performer and teaching artist. The next year, I was performing and choreographing. And now, along with performing and choreographing, I am the Executive Director. It feels like a real career ascension to me. I feel like I am moving up. I am working my way into a “real” career … as an artist. There are so many paths to take within arts that extend even beyond the first thing you may think of. There are actors, yeah, but there are also stage managers, costume designers, composers, administrators, and on and on. There is a whole world here waiting for anyone who wants to make a living doing what they love and creating art. It is baffling to me that not everyone knows they can do it. I am sure we have made gains in the way that no one generally outright discourages someone from being an artist, but comments can really change what someone believes about themselves. Telling someone it’s hard to make it in their industry will 100% influence their decision in some way. Making people fear the grind of working hard for their passion might dishearten them and lead them to choose a path that brings them less joy, a path that will still take a lot of working hard but won’t be as fulfilling. 


We have proven time and again that artists are essential, and we have proven that you can, in fact, have a career in the arts. 


So I say …


Let’s encourage our little humans to continue their creativity and curiosity into adulthood. Let’s encourage our overwhelmed teenagers to not lose faith in the things they love and are passionate about. Let’s encourage young adults to pursue their passions in the way they see fit. Let’s encourage everyone to celebrate life and make art.


Noelle Billings

Executive Director

Dance Waterloo

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