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viewpoint

Artist privilege

| Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I am sick of walking around this campus and seeing all this artist privilege. Everywhere I go, there’s a flock of artists strutting around in their matching artist gear.

They think they’re so cool, their artsy nametags swinging from their backpack. “Emily Wemily: Varsity Painting!” one brags in sparkles. “Joe Schmo: Club Ceramics” shouts another.

They make me feel excluded and inartistic, even though I paint for fun. I’m just not good enough to make varsity, or that’s what I tell myself. I never tried out.

Regardless, I don’t have the time for such a commitment. I hear they paint for five hours a day in their special art studios that us Philistines are not allowed in. How do they have time or energy for class? Or the real question: How do they have time to stand around taunting me unconsciously with their gear, nametags and artsy haircuts?

As annoyed as I am, I can’t help but look to see if I recognize any of the artists. I can’t be obvious; I have to play it cool and pretend I don’t know how famous or talented they are (or are not). They might be one of the masters, or their artwork might not even get displayed.

What if their sculptures were displayed in the O’Shaugnessy hallway? That would make them campus celebrities.

On Saturdays, almost every student has a ticket for the Snite art showing. Thousands of alums come to campus to pre-show with wine and cheese. Then, the whole campus pours into the Snite sporting “Go ND Sculpture” T-shirts. We amuse ourselves by attempting to cheer and dance in coordination, and sometimes we actually watch the artists attack the clay.

We sing a sentimental song when the artist wins. We sing if the clay wins, too. Once, the art instructor told us we couldn’t sing if the clay got the best of the artist, but that made the student body mad, so now we’re allowed to sing no matter what.

Good thing, because a lot of people (like me) don’t understand sculpture. We just go to the showing because we like singing the song and swaying, even though it’s awkward sometimes.

After standing for three hours (The sculpting itself doesn’t take a long time, but there are so many commercial breaks and smoking breaks because it’s not healthy to ask an artist to sculpt without cigarettes), we all rush to the dining hall for a special candlelit dinner. The dinner is not that special, but the candles are — varsity sculptors sculpted them. The sculptors don’t see their artwork admired for they eat in the varsity artist lounge.

Sometimes I get annoyed that our school spends so much money on clay and canvases for the varsity artists. Then I remember how much money the tickets to the shows make, not to mention how much the bookstore makes from its pottery-themed gear; the art department easily pays for itself and probably makes a profit.

But then I get annoyed again when I remember how heavily admissions recruits artists. You let her in because she can throw a pot, but then you never display her artwork? Then I remember that the artists are probably good at academics. I chastise myself for letting the negative stereotypes get to me when they’re not true most of the time.

I should probably chill about this whole artist privilege thing. It’s only a big deal if I make it one. I am so lucky to go to Notre Dame. I get to learn about the most random and relevant things at this beautiful school with sparkling snow, steamed veggies and a functioning heating system.

So what if I don’t get to eat artist food or wear artist gear? I have normal food in my stomach and normal clothes on my back (and front).

Life is good when I realize my complaints are stupid. Actually, life is always good, but I don’t realize it until I stop complaining.

I may not have artist privilege, but I have life privilege, and it’s pretty good to be alive. I’ll remember that as long as I’m kept away from the sparkly nametags and pointed towards the sparkling snow.

About Erin Thomassen

I am a freshman double majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and French. PLS (aka the Notre Dame Book Club) is the history of ideas through literature, philosophy, math and science. It was the perfect major for me, because I couldn't possibly choose one subject and hurt the other subjects' feelings. French was also a natural pick, since I have been prancing around my house under the pretense of performing ballet for eighteen years. If someone asks me what I do in my free time, I will tell them that I run and read. What I actually do is eat cartons of strawberries and knit lumpy scarves. If you give me fresh fruit, we will be friends. If we become friends, I will knit you a scarf for Christmas. It may be lumpy, but it will be in your favorite color. And if enough people become my friend, lumpy scarves might just become a trend.

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