Students brush off art degree stigma

Leonardo Montañez, Staff Reporter

Art as a major is quickly becoming a taboo among students due to the idea that artists are doomed thanks to the competitive aspect of the major itself. But students and professors alike continue to pursue their goals because they find an opportunity and it’s their passion.

Manuel Guerra, full-time lecturer of art, believes that a degree in art is useless is because of the culture we are surrounded by.

“Most parents are afraid of their children making a living on any kind of art,” Guerra said. “Most of them want them to be doctors, lawyers or the chief of a tribe.”

According to Guerra, success comes with determination and appreciation for what one does and said that it is important to do what we want.

“Follow your heart, it’s all you can do. If you really like what you do and you enjoy it you are going to succeed,” Guerra said. “But if you’re always questioning back and forth you won’t.”

Guerra obtained a bachelor’s degree at UTEP in drawing and minor in printmaking. His masters on printmaking at the State University of New York grants knowledge, he said.

“Art is not based on money, its about how culture and how (it) has evolved,” Guerra said. “People say that art has evolved, others say that is has regressed with the computer age.  People should study art because it allows you (to) know how life was in the past and how we changed.”

Guerra said that nobody can tell the outcome of an artist but that as long that the student stays true to their passion, they will succeed.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t achieve it, because that is just bringing negative vibes,” Guerra said. “Always remain positive, you’ll see the bright side of life.”

Diego Portillo, junior graphic design major, said that being afraid is a common fear for artist but it shouldn’t stop anyone.

“Culturally, people are afraid of being an art major, because it is a very restricted major, very competitive,” Portillo said. “But it is not as hard as it seems, as long as you look you’ll find.”

Portillo has been working for the department of music at UTEP, exercising his profession as a designer.

“Even after I graduate, I will keep on with my career outside UTEP looking for internships and someday work for an advertising agency,” Portillo said. “I will also pursue a masters on Fine Arts.”

Portillo also believes that it’s a cultural thing, which El Paso is not used to.

“El Paso is an area of manufactures and the border,” Portillo said.

Aside from his work, Portillo dedicates his free time to improve his art as a hobby and to gain money.

“I do most of my work as a hobby and for drawing class,” Portillo said. “Also, I make money as free-lance artist selling all kind of drawings and art.”

Portillo said that people should not be afraid of studying art because it all depends on how people act towards their passion.

“Being afraid is pretty normal, but that people should study whatever they want because people say that it is hard to find a job, but in reality no major can guarantee 100 percent that you’ll get a job,” Portillo said. “And if money worries you, still study art because if that is your real passion you’ll get the money because you are doing a good job.”

Layla Stull, dropout art student, continued her life as an artist even after dropping out of school because she think, that is the beauty of arts.

“I dropped to start making money to pay my loans, but I kept my career close to me and applied as much as I could from what I learned at college,” Stull said. “And that’s the beauty of arts because you can practice them even if you are not at school, unlike many other majors, and that you can learn from teachers, but one’s voice come from ourselves and it is on us to be good artists.”

According to Stull, she has sold many of portraits even though she hasn’t graduated and it helped her pay some of her bills.

“Even though I didn’t finish college, people are willing to buy art they consider good and as long as you have your style, people are going to like it,” Stull said. “But I would definitely recommend to finish college, a degree gives reputation, that’s why I’m still willing to finish college.”

Leonardo Montañez may be reached at [email protected]