There’s more to a degree than earning potential

[Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

As the primary instructor of visual arts at the College of Central Florida’s Ocala campus, you can imagine my dismay when reading Sen. Dennis Baxley’s recent comments on art education: “I use the illustration that… you may love art, and you may just want to study art. But, if we could arrange that program so you picked up a few courses that also qualified you to teach art, now you have a career path.”

His comments came while discussing his proposal to reduce Bright Futures Scholarships for certain college degrees based on their earning potential.

My undergraduate degree is in art and my Master of Fine Arts is in painting. I took no education classes in any of my higher education, yet these degrees qualify me to be an associate professor at CF – definitely a decent career path.

I know of several former CF art students now working in the Ocala area as professional artists, who took a similar track. As you know, the Ocala Arts Festival (Marion County’s largest event annually) brings about 150 artists to Ocala each year. These people, mostly from Florida, are making a career of creating and selling art.

Why is their career path worth less than some in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields?

The Americans for the Arts Prosperity 5 (AEP5) study reveals that Marion County’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations are economic drivers – creating an industry that supports jobs and generates government revenue. The Ocala local non-profit arts and culture industry spends an estimated $56 million annually in our community, employs 1,422 people, and generates $6.1 million in local and state government revenue. Why would we want to discourage our most promising students from pursuing degrees for which they have a passion?

The Florida State College system is a model for the country and the faculty and administrators have done a superb job of crafting curriculum that is the envy of most states. The arts (and other fields) enrich and aid the process of learning.

To deny funding to students who want to follow their interests and aptitudes is one way to push people into an unfulfilled life.

We are all born with gifts and talents and the world needs all of them. Who do you think is creating all the attractions in Orlando’s theme parks if not those who we would call artists? If the attractions in Orlando, which drive the state’s tourism economy, were not thought up and produced by the artists of this state, then Florida would have a state income tax. The lack of this tax and influx of tourists’ dollars makes Florida unique, and again, the envy of many states and an economic draw for businesses.

At the heart of it is the arts.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Government, News, Opinion

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