Artists, Student Loan Debt, and the Myth of Artistic Purity

rats stand before a sun king

Some artists believe that if they consider their audience during the creation process, or if they consider making money with their work, that they’ll somehow sully the purity of the intention of the nature of their art.

In other words, they concentrate on making art that they themselves would like to see in the world and hope that people value their work.

The belief is that if the artist is pure in their intention, then they will create an honest work of art that a business person (or a rich arts appreciator with no artistic skill who inherited a manufacturing fortune from their grandparents) will notice the true beauty in the artist’s work. Then they will support the artist by purchasing, commissioning, or patronizing the artist. This allows the artist to remain pure, because they’d only have to express their deepest emotions without polluting their work with thoughts of consumerism, commercialism, or capitalism.

Some artist believe in this fairy tale so hard that they sacrifice their safety and well being to serve its higher purpose. This myth has birthed a cult-like form of religious devotion that is detrimental to artists and to the arts because of the risks that artists take to serve this puritanical ideal. Followers of this artistic ideology fall prey to financial thieves.

As a result of this fanaticism, these artists find themselves doing crazy things, such as borrowing many thousands of dollars in student loans for degrees they don’t need and will possibly never use. They don’t know anything about money because they’ve either never had to worry about it, they’ve never had any, or they refuse to consider money as part of their personal or professional lives. To these artists, money represents “the man,” death, and selling your soul to the devil.

Money is not evil, and it’s not the enemy of art. Debt is.