Friday, July 31, 2009

Hard Work

Jordan Levin wrote a passionate piece in Sunday’s Miami Herald about the importance of the arts in troubled economic times. Levin writes,
“I would argue that thinking culture is a frill, a disposable ornament for a comfortable life, has helped get us into the mess we’re in.”
Levin argues that there are many reasons the devaluing of art has happened and it got me thinking.

There are two references in the piece to American Idol and to be honest American Idol pushes a button for me. I see American Idol as part of a growing glorification of the amateur in pop culture. More and more, popular culture is highlighting the amateur who through innate talent or good luck finds themselves celebrated. The issue for me is the absence of hard work. In our great country many of us have become intoxicated with a fantasy that success is possible without hard work or preparation. That is completely antithetical to the arts. The arts are all about hard work. It is about risk and failure. It is sometimes about success and clarity. For a few it is lucrative. But mostly it is about hard work.

As an arts educator, I believe I have a responsibility to my students to cultivate their understanding that the arts are worth doing. And things that are worth doing take hard work. A couple of years ago a student wrote on the end of semester evaluation, “Dr Saraniero takes theatre too seriously. She thinks this is the most important course we take. I had to work harder in this course than in any other.” It was meant to be a complaint but I took it as a compliment.

The devaluing of the arts that Levin wrote about goes hand in hand with the devaluing of hard work. So in our ethical responsibilities to our students, we must encourage them to work hard, learn from failure and try again. Not very glamorous but qualities that literally built this country. Making art requires quintessential American attributes – so why are the arts struggling to survive?


  1. Learning how to fail and try again has to be the most important skill any person have, whether they embark on an arts career or not. Inspiration never comes when you do something just once.

    I love the student complaint/compliment. Good for you for encouraging hard work!

  2. I agree that learning to fail is a necessary skill and a necessary step towards success. I recently made a big ol' mistake on a project. Once I recovered from my mortification (very Type A am I), I was amazed to discovered what I had learned.

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