Posts Tagged 'Liberal Arts'

Tell Me, What’s An Artist To Do With A Gift?

No matter what the “answers” are, a good place to start looking is in Lewis Hyde’s “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.” This book, along with Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” is one of the two foundational texts for my ever-evolving ethic of Rurality. Not to mention, it changed my life (you know, how beautiful it is to say that about something without any irony!)

Brief summary, before moving on to the topic of this post

The Gift was published in 1983, and on its journey to becoming a “modern classic” (as described by the back cover), it has been recognized by writers like David Foster Wallace, Margaret Atwood, and Zadie Smith. In fact, (before I ever attended Kenyon or took a class with Lewis Hyde,) I remember Foster Wallace being a bit giddy in one of his essays about Hyde…

Basically, Hyde argues that art (in today’s world) exists simultaneously in two economies: a gift economy, and a market economy. Art’s natural economy is the gift economy– something that emerges from a gift to the artist, and given away by the artist. The gift economy is one that is constantly moving (instead of accumulating, as it happens in a market economy). And of course, because art is a gift and not a commodity, this means that there is nothing in the process of making art that assures an income. Which brings me to…

Act III. The Artist Graduates.

…by which I mean, of course, me. I’ve been trying very hard not to let my angst about graduating seep into this blog– which might explain the lack of text-based posts lately, and the proliferation of image-based posts. In any case, my angst is no different than any student who has chosen a major that doesn’t exactly buy into the market economy. My resume looks something like this:

English Major concentrating in Creative Writing, with a Women’s and Gender Studies Concentration. General Rural Academic has experience in nonprofit work (i.e. Habitat for Humanity) and nonpaying work (i.e. being a Woman Farmer). Also has experience being a freelance artist, but that was before she had to pay her own health insurance. Knows how to buckle down under The System (waited tables in high school) but would rather not do it again. Seeking a creative, collaborative position after graduation, and not in the euphemistic Human Resources sense.

So. What I’ve noticed (as graduation creeps ever-closer) is that even a small liberal arts college like Kenyon is fostering doubts about the legitimacy of a creative person in today’s world. First of all, I’ve never been so busy with meaningless work in my life, which has left almost no time at all for me to research post-grad options. (And to think that college is supposed to help open up options for life after graduation! Sigh.) Second of all, Kenyon functions, at a very foundational level, as a good ol’ boy network– one with strong ties to Wall Street and “old money” alums. As a lower-middle-income woman student, I’ve consistently felt excluded from this networking system. And yet, despite all the evidence that this network would only connect me to corporate positions, I still have a lingering jealousy of the possibilities that rich alums can offer.

What I want is alternatives— the “third option” between selling out and living in poverty –that I know exists, but that the Career Development Center hasn’t been able to help me explore. In fact, the Career Development Center is fairly mystified as to why I would want an alternative path.

Not Quite a Solution

So I am spending this spring break writing, and reading, and making art– and flailing around the internet for futures. It’s funny how I feel so open to a thousand different possibilities, and yet researching job websites on the internet is making me feel closed-minded. Wanting to do something subversive? Something creative? Something that I might feel passionately about? …Well that’s just unheard of.

…but if you do hear of anything, drop me a line.


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