The Art Courses and The University Budget Cuts Walk Into a Bar.

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Malmö University (MAH)

…and the bartender says ´´Hey! I know where this is going!´´. And so do I. As a matter of fact, if you are studying Arts you probably do too. I was naively living in a world where the Art Department was the bread and butter of the society, the soul of the University, the heart of the Academia. Well it isn’t.  Not in the eyes of the Government people who, when it comes to saving money and cutting costs, are pointing fingers at the education budget. I am an English student who at the end of next year will have a bachelor of Arts with a major in English Studies. My teachers are wonderful people, always trying to do the best for us, teaching engaging courses, encouraging us to be creative. But there is only so much that they can do.

This semester I have been engaged (and still am) in a great course called Creative Writing. It is a distance course at Malmö University,Sweden, based on developing our skills as writers through workshops, reading, as well as giving and receiving feedback. Great stuff, you might say. Well that’s not what the University thought when it came to cutting costs. What is happening is that the Government decided the universities need to cut their budget, and  as usual the art courses went down first. SO we nagged and nagged and in the end decided to…well…do something. And we did what we do best. We wrote. Between our workshops and deadlines we wrote some mails to the Vice Chancellor. We told him how this course is unique in Scandinavia. We told him how important our English speaking community in Southern Sweden is. We told him former students are being published all over the place resulting in an income. We told him how every semester there are so many students who just can’t get a spot in the course because there is no more room. We told him how our department is cut from Literature courses all the freaking time, and how this is just another low blow. Mainly we told him how much we love our course. I don’t know how many e mails he received but at the end many asked him about this issue on his blog, as well as making Facebook pages where we discussed why the course should not be discontinued. And it worked. I honestly didn’t thought it would, but it did and boy did I let out a wild loud cheer when I heard the good news. We get to keep the course. It will not be discontinued. Yay for us. Power to the people, right?

But this it got me thinking. How many other instances like these are happening all over the world? I know the same situation of art courses being discontinued at the first glimpse of financial problems is happening worldwide. USA has the same stuff going on (my teacher happens to be American), Europe- same thing. Why? Since when are we looking at artists and art as useless education? Will there be a day when we won’t need any journalists, film makers, actors, singers, illustrators, writers, etc ? I just don’t see myself living in a world without all that. Who will design your clothes? Who will write your newspaper? Who will make you laugh or cry in front of the TV when you cuddle with your loved one? How can people still think at the Humanities as not needed? Come on world!

We just had a small victory here and it felt freaking great. To show someone who has the power to say yes or no that WE NEED creativity was something like from another world when we succeeded.  Next time they close your painting, music, literature class: fight back! Write them mails explaining why. Write them comments on their blogs. Write them essay-length posts on their Facebook page. If they don’t hear you, everyone reading their stuff will. And if it doesn’t work at least YOU know you tried. And if one person wakes up and realizes that it is the wrong solution, well then it’s a good day.

There are no words to describe how much I grew personally and professorially ever since I started my education, and I won’t get into that now. Creativity is something so needed in our society. Cutting it off and kicking it out of universities is just not acceptable to me. I believe being creative helps us develop in ways we never expected. And that feels wonderful.

It’s always nice when people you respect and look up to talk about things that directly apply to you and our society. Here is a link to a video where actor, author, director, and screenwriter Peter Coyote talks exactly about this issue, explaining (much better and coherent than I can ever be able to) WHY it’s generally a stupid idea to remove art courses from universities.

Peter Coyote on arts

I don’t want to end this post without stating that my university is still one of the few that did listened to its students and heard what we have to say. Kudos to MAH. I am also including a link to the great (and victorious) course of creative writing I am talking about.

Creative Writing Course

I hope this does not further develop in a trend of cutting and chopping art courses. Let the people learn how to be creative and develop their creativity. Just let us breathe a bit.

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