Categorized | Viewpoints

Being a black artist at C.O.W.

I will not deny that this particular viewpoint stems from a very personal place. And if you know me well enough, you will agree that I constantly lament about my condition as a studio art major. Being black, I am more aware of myself as a minority in the arts on campus than I have ever been in any past time in my life, and I think the experiences of minorities and others in the art department at Wooster are just as valid.

Some might agree with me that there is a general movement to the sciences, which has been accumulating for some time. I think it is absolutely amazing to support the sciences, but not at the expense of the arts. The conversation surrounding the arts on campus can be quite discouraging and the generic introductive question of “What is your major?” always seems to unnerve me. I am trapped in the negative thought pattern of people doubting my abilities or my success as an artist (more so even as an African artist) or even performing comparative analyses of the possible workload I might endure.

I should mention that this is not generalized in any way to everyone I meet, but there exists (to an extent) a stereotype of the arts on campus, of it being simplistic of some sort. The frequent comments I sometimes get are: “oh classes must be easy if you only draw all day,” or “oh, you do look like an art student…” (I do not really know what the last one is about), or my least favorite comment, “perhaps you should minor in art instead, and do that on the side maybe?”

More importantly, as a black artist, I struggle to constantly inspire and motivate myself. There is an invisible partition that separates the art department from other departments, and there are limitations in place that prevent students like myself from attaining the best experience the College could possibly offer. It is important to advocate for the arts as well; after all, that is at the very heart of a liberal education. To not have similar, if not the same, supportive circles that other students might have hinders you.

I would like for the education that my parents are paying for to be translated into something more after college, and I understand the part I must play in that, but I hoped to be equipped with the tools and skills that I need to implement successful career plans. I am grateful to the people that advise me and aid me and even to those that may sympathize with me, but at times that is not enough. I am not trying to play the role of a victim — far from it — and I wish I could be more confident in my choice as an art major, but I am subtly reminded that my window is fast approaching.

Toshiko Tanaka, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment TTanaka19@wooster.edu.

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