Yesterday I spent the afternoon with an artist friend, whom I have known for 35 years. We met at Connecticut College while we were students there. Religious Studies was her major, and Studio Art was mine, with a minor in Anthropology. My friend, who will remain anonymous for the purposes of this blog, has taken many private art lessons and has continued to paint with much success in various shows and galleries. Yesterday we went to Lyme Art Association, where there is a marvelous exhibit, showing the many art styles of the artists in the area. It is a juried show, meaning that each work and artist had to be reviewed and judged as to their worthiness. Consequently, each painting has merit, and many artists are repeat exhibitors. My friend pointed out the artists she is familiar with and their particular styles, along with specific art elements for which they are known. I have a renewed appreciation of what art can do for our culture and what I might do as an artist. We had lunch and a walk along the boardwalk in her town that overlooks Long Island Sound. A great afternoon and a great friend.
She and I often have had conversations about exactly when we met — was it 1977 or 1978 — but of course it doesn’t matter; we just like to disagree about it. Always we talk about how Conn. College affected our lives. We studied there in our mid-life while we had husbands and families to take care of, and in those times our home responsibilities took precedence over other things. I still think that is a good choice. However, when it came time to graduate and get jobs, we were already 20 years behind. Going into the workforce starting at that age puts a tremendous handicap on a career, especially with a liberal arts degree. We each had certification in the legal and medical fields respectively, and we had business and office skills that helped us to get on with our work lives. I’m sure we enjoyed that, but at age 40+, it is difficult to begin a work life along side the “kids” half our age. There is much more to say about that from a sociological point of view. However, I want to put a positive spin and comment on our educational choices.
Looking back over these years helps us to get a better perspective on these choices. Conversations with my liberal arts friend, and going to galleries each time we get together, keep this perspective in line with our core values and our passions. The passion we share is art, and each time I immerse myself in art, whether it is doing art or seeing others’ art, reminds me of how much I know about it and about life. That is immensely gratifying. She also continues her interest and education in her field. It adds to her political awareness and ability to express herself to her congress men and women, and to the President. She gave me a few Artist’s Magazines to take home, as her way of encouraging me in my field.
What am I trying to say? In spite of needing practical skills to support yourself and your family, the liberal arts contribute to your life in ways you cannot predict, in the ways you educate your own children and the choices you make. My friend and I always talk about this aspect of our lives, and how so many things have changed since we were college students, some for the better, and other things — well, not so much. She told me about a young person who could not read something she had written for him because he does not know cursive. She had to re-write it for him in “printing.” How absurd to be a high school graduate and not know something as basic.
Please don’t misunderstand. One does not “need” a liberal arts degree. I believe that anyone who has an intense interest in something outside oneself will find it feeds one’s soul in later life, and the ability to read and write well is essential to a good life. And of course you don’t need a liberal arts degree to know cursive, but this anecdote is an example of how far our schools have come from standard liberal knowledge.
Thanks for listening to my heart today. I am very grateful for my friend and the interests and life we continue to share.