First-Year Perspective on Guilford’s Art Requirement

Since Guilford College has been tweeting and sending out congratulations to all the incoming First-Years for fall 2014, I thought I might play up a bit of why the arts requirement is important to take and then share it with all these fresh, new faces via social media. The brick wall I hit was realizing this meant I would have to interview multiple current first-year students.

Interviews are weird and awkward. I’ll be the first to admit it. So a self-assigned article in which I must interview not one, but five people…I was a little daunted. What if my recorder breaks? (It did, *groan.*) What if I misquote someone? (I might! *Gasp!*) What if Google Drive crashes and all my interview questions and answers are lost and I have to frantically find the backup, praying it’s still intact? (Yeah, that happened, too.) The horrible possibilities are endless. So, as an antidote to any possible screw-ups or mishaps with today’s article, I devised an absolutely fool-proof plan (rubbing my hands together, chuckling, no less)…I would interview the five first-years I needed feedback from – drumroll, please – short essay style!

That’s a great plan, Hannah! Nothing could be weird or awkward there, Hannah!

Except it completely threw off what I was going to write about in the first place.

But isn’t that why interviewing people is so beautiful anyway? And this article is now, arguably, much better for it. You see, these awesome First-Years who graciously answered my questions and allowed me to photograph them, had some truly powerful and positive things to say about why they believe the arts requirement is, indeed, important to them personally.

But one of my questions received basically the same answer each time – How might the things you’ve learned in an art class be used in other areas of your academic study?

“I don’t know…”

 “My major doesn’t have anything to do with art…”

 “…it doesn’t contribute to my career.”

You see where my brilliant, Q&A style interview technique backfired now, don’t you? So did I. They answered truthfully to a question I presented to them without any preconceived notions about how they actually are being impacted in the rest of their academic and social lives. This was my downfall. I had expected their answers to confirm for me what I already believed, but instead it caused me to have to prove it.

With the help of some research* I dug up from my Arts in Education class I took back when I was a First-Year, I’m compiled a short list that I hope is proof-worthy,  intriguing, thought-provoking, and most importantly, relatable to whatever your major may be.

  • Creating art helps maintain creativity and discover untapped creative potential. The possibilities discovered are helpful and sometimes unexpected.

  • “Art teaches critical thinking rather than getting the right answer.”

  • The arts embrace all perspectives and allow students to do the same in other fields. This means we can use the skills found through art when working in groups and listening. Sitting in on an art critique just once will help anyone see what cooperation and helpful criticism is. Critical thinking skills and patience  are relevant in all academic studies.

  • The arts opens up doors to learning about other cultures. Many Guilford arts classes also fulfill the Diversity in the U.S. requirement. Learning about and embracing diversity is key to any career.

This is a very broad-spectrum list, trying to cover lots of outlets, so I encourage you to think about how you might utilize skills you learned through making or performing art and then let everyone know about it in the comments!

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To the students I interviewed – I hope this doesn’t seem like I’m trying to get back at you for not knowing what to write for that question. My written interview style was a bad idea, but what came of it gave me something much more interesting to think and write about, so thanks!

To future students of Guilford – the arts requirement is tons of fun and can benefit you in more ways than probably everyone can fathom. Go forth and be creative in fine art, theatre, dance, music…whatever keeps the creativity boat afloat.

To the future President of Guilford – please keep the arts in mind during your administration. We might seem a little eccentric (okay, we’re a wacky bunch) but we are also highly dedicated and motivated student-creatives who found our calling doing what we love – keeping the world entertaining, friendly, open-minded, and beautiful.

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*(This is the link I found in my research notes)

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