I grew up in a household with a stay-at-home-mom. While she did the domestic jobs of cooking and cleaning, she devoted herself to helping with homework, problems, and encouraging her children every day in everything that they did; she still does. While all parents have flaws, I never saw my mom’s choice of staying at home to be one of them.
There have been many moments, I’m sure, when my mom questioned her decision. Indeed she still has many goals and dreams to carry out when she chooses to, but once she had her three girls, her life revolved around them.
I do remember at one point, around when I was five, she worked at a library, and she worked with my father when he was a minister in whatever ways she could, but she never did something like being a newspaper editor, becoming a doctor, a lawyer, and so on. While she enjoyed working and doing other things which she loved, she made the girls her priority.
Growing up with encouragement, my parents sought for me and my two sisters to always have a career in mind. If we didn’t wish to do the big things, they still encouraged us to get our teaching credentials so we would have something to “fall back on,” if all doesn’t go as we dream it. However, as I have grown, I have realized that I want to be just like my mother. Though some days she tells me she wishes she had done more, and that she herself would have gotten her teaching credentials, I have come to the point in my life to stick to my own gut feelings.
These days, women are expected to do just as much as men. If they are, indeed, blessed and capable to go to college and to work towards a career, they are expected to have a career. Whether it be a teacher, a news consultant, a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, a police woman, or a secretary—a woman is expected to want that position of self-dependency and power that those before us fought so hard to have.
As I grow up, I have realized more and more my want to stay home. I have high hopes of being a published author and perhaps a free lance writer, but other than that my main goal is to be a good mother. It seems the more years that separate us from the 50s and before, women who stay home are looked down upon. After all, are we not just as capable as men? We have the choice to go to work, to have a career, and to be a mother and a wife. We have the choice to have it all. This I understand… but what if I don’t want it all? What if I am perfectly content to stay at home, cook and clean, help the kids in all that they do, and be a number-one mother and wife? Why is that such a bad thing?
I got married young, but my mind has never changed. When I was younger my hopes were to be an actress, then a teacher, then a writer, then a librarian, then all of the above. Still I work towards those dreams that I have had all of my life, but now most of them are “just in cases.”
I will continue my education and get my masters in library sciences just in case something happens to my husband and I am forced to support myself, and maybe someday my children. I will go back and get my teaching credentials, if necessary, to help support us if we are ever in a hard financial time. But all of these options that I have are just that—options. I have the option to choose what I wish to do. And what is that? I choose to be a mother, to write when I am able, to continue to try to be published, and to be content supporting my family.
Women have a peculiar role in the world these days. While in some places women are still not as free to do as we are in the United States, more time tends to equal more opportunities. While I always give shout outs to my feminist sisters, there are those that I disagree with in many cases. Why are women who stay at home to be mothers looked down on, but women who show off their bodies for work, not? After all, those women are giving in to a stereotype as much as the stay-at-home-mothers; they are using their bodies to get what they want, which is an ancient trick our sex has long possessed.
Children are our future. If all women are to have a career and a family, and sometimes family time is sacrificed—will our children continue to grow up well rounded? It seems that kids today are starting to lose respect, lose the true knowing of family-togetherness, lose companionship with brothers and sisters; children now are always entertained with video games, movies, TV shows—even in the car! If all the women that wish to be stay-at-home-moms give in to society and become career-focused women… what will happen to our children?
I am not saying that women cannot do it all, but I do think there has to be some kind of balance. I think that if women who have a career and a family are looked up to, women who decide to stay at home and focus on the family should be looked up to as well. Both are accomplishing something, both are making a difference.
Why is a woman lawyer making a bigger difference than a mother at home giving her child options of punishments? Why is a woman doctor making a bigger difference than a stay-at-home-mother who bandages her child’s hurts and kisses them to make them feel better? Why are women no longer allowed to want to be the perfect wife and mother?
It seems to me that women today are afraid to make the home and love the big picture. Society is pushing women to have careers, to make a difference. The way I see it, is women can have time for a career and they can have time for family. If a woman wants to make her home her career, there should be no problems with that. That’s how it began, and while the changes and opportunities that have come our way should not be ignored, they do not have to be the only options.
Power to the women who have it all; power to the women that only want a career, and power to the women who want the home to be their career!
We should all support one another, all realize that we have the opportunity to choose and that some choices should not be looked at as better than others.
While I do not think going through life depending on the image of getting married, having kids, and being a mom should be the number one goal of a woman, she should not look down upon it if that’s what ends up happening.
There is no shame in giving in to love and saving other opportunities for later in life, and vice versa. Women should be happy to be who they are and enjoy their choices and making choices for themselves.
We should stop doing only what society expects us to do, and exercise our right of choosing. After all, isn’t that what the men do?
By Katherine J. Chen
The first semester of my freshman year was spent, for the most part, in my dorm. In the evenings, my three roommates could all be found poring over the same bathroom mirror, their faces layered with gloss, powder, and even the occasional glitter. While they slipped on heels and zipped up dresses, I would be sitting at my desk, poring over the stacks of papers, open textbooks, and problem sets stacked neatly in front of me. Every five minutes, I would also feel compelled to check my e-mail, even if I knew that I had no incoming messages to read other than the slew of spam mail waiting to be purged in my Trash folder.
With some assurance, I can say that the entirety of my freshman year was spent half in my dorm and half at home. In both settings I was doing the same thing: working. Whether it was applying for jobs or stressing out about essay deadlines, I was always laboring over some assignment or unfinished task. Even before I entered college, I had already developed a number of disturbing habits. I used to starve myself on purpose until I finished whatever work or tasks I had set out to complete that day. This meant that if there was an English paper, a lab report, and a PowerPoint presentation to work on, I couldn’t eat until I had finished all of my work. There was no exception to this rule, and it was entirely self-inflicted.
As a result of these poor decisions, I began to take meals – usually in the form of cold leftovers tossed in the microwave – at all hours of the day, from midnight to dawn. I began to view food as an award, instead of as a necessity. If I was able to finish all of my homework and other jobs on time, I could sit myself down to a hot meal, even on occasion at the dinner table with my parents. If I broke down from exhaustion before every task was checked off my to-do list for the day, I would collapse on the mattress and go to sleep. Even though I did not realize it at the time, these habits severely affected my health and my weight. It took nearly half a year for me to adjust back to a healthy routine of eating foods earlier in the day and setting up a normal sleeping schedule. It took even longer for me to learn how to put the pencil down and take the initiative of making my own lunch or dinner without my mother asking me every few hours if I was hungry.
At the end of freshman year, my social life was also in ruins. As a workaholic, I was repulsed by the idea of going out with friends or socializing in any respect. I cannot recall a single memory from freshman year which did not involve work. Every trip I took to the city, every effort I made to reconnect with old friends from high school, had been related in some shape or form to the assignments waiting for me back home. An art critique due at the end of the week would prompt me to call up a few close friends of mine on the pretense that I just wanted to hang out. Of course, once we arrived at the museum, I would get right down to business. While my friends took turns posing beside Greek statues to get my attention, I was squinting my eyes, trying to jot down all the information I could on the paintings I needed to see, not the pieces I really wanted to see.
Over the summer, I took the time to significantly adjust my working habits. I resolved to set a limited amount of time each day to working, and at least two to three hours to relaxing. Abiding by a strict schedule actually involved more discipline than working twelve to fourteen hours a day. Surprisingly, I increased both my work productivity and efficiency by waking up at certain hours, eating regularly, and going to sleep at night instead of in the early hours of the morning.
Though workaholism is oftentimes described as a “respectable addiction,” I know firsthand that it is destructive to your health and social life, both of which areimportant aspects of your overall wellbeing. If you cannot stop thinking about work, then it is time to take action and take control of your schedule. Create a to-do list that incorporates both work-related assignments and non-work-related tasks, such as catching up with an old roommate or phoning your best friend after she finishes her last class. Schedule breaks for a few light snacks, or better yet, some rejuvenating exercise. Take a walk around the block, play with your dog, or hit the treadmill! Though work is definitely a vital element to any healthy lifestyle, it is one that can easily take over your entire life if you do not regulate its impact on the other equally important aspects of your daily schedule.
By Katherine. J. Chen
As I type this, I notice that The Norton Anthology of Poetry sitting on my desk is not perfectly aligned with the three or four red-and-green plastic folders stacked neatly underneath it. This prompts me to take decisive action. Leaving my computer unnoticed, I spend approximately five minutes sliding the anthology back and forth until its corners line up with the edges of the folders. While doing so, I touch the anthology with only the tips of my fingers, making sure that I am neither shoving the book too hard nor staining its delicate paper cover with oily prints. In these short but mentally exhausting moments, all that matters to me is the book and the folders beneath it.
Only a few months ago, a cable in my garage snapped loose. It somehow caused an entire wall of tools to collapse on the stone floor, and I remember how my dog began barking and running back and forth between where I was sitting and the basement door leading into the garage. What was I doing? Oh, I was very calmly mending the bent corners of my textbooks with a glue stick, a process which takes no less than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Books are at the top of my list of items I unabashedly obsess over. I never allow anyone to borrow my books or touch them, and I always carry them separately. Backpacks tend to crease the corners, which is why I prefer tote bags—or even, on occasion, shopping bags—where you can place each one face down on a relatively even surface.
I am OCD about generally anything paper-related. A printer that I once purchased had the horrible habit of creasing the tops of my pages. When I pointed this deficiency out to my mother, she told me she couldn’t see what I was talking about. But I could, and what’s worse, I already knew I would never get over it. Using that piece of inefficient machinery, I would often print out the same document five, six, or seven times in a row until a page came out with the smallest and most indistinguishable wrinkle. Finally, I got sick of wasting paper, and I gave the printer away, wanting nothing more to do with it.
Bags with loose threads. Unpolished laptops. Items arranged in anything but a straight line. Shirts with dust or small bits of hair. Carpets that are left unvacuumed for more than half a day. Labels that aren’t put on straight. Food that isn’t divided in the right way. Bottles that don’t go in order of height or some other type of logical arrangement. All of these things drive me insane. I consider dented or scratched office products to be the worst, especially because these occasionally surface at stores like Office Depot and Staples. I will often just stand in front of a stack of binders, looking for one that isn’t dust-covered or damaged in some way.
I am a general fiend in bookstores, where my OCD awareness is at its height. Oftentimes, I will buy three versions of the same book, so I don’t have to risk carrying them around and exposing them to a volatile environment. This saves me time and energy, and I don’t have to worry about what happens if there is a sudden casualty (i.e. a person knocks a book out of my hands, a teacher bends the spine of a book too far).
Some might find all this taxing and awful, but at the end of the day, I see my obsessive qualities over books and the like as positive. I enjoy the thrill of arranging otherwise disorderly items into a single assembly line. My shelves are immaculate, and a part of me comes alive when I flip on the switch to my Dyson Ball vacuum cleaner every day. What else could a girl reasonably ask for?
By Christine Stoddard
Everyone knows that art students are poor students–or at least that’s the stereotype. Does that mean you have to wedge yourself inside of the cookie-cutter, too? No. Fight it by being enterprising. Directly apply the skills you learn in your studio classes to create your own products. Whether that means crocheting scarves, designing greeting cards, or sewing doll clothes, choose an endeavor that’s enjoyable and profitable. Then start trolling Craigslist and your local newspaper for information about arts and crafts fairs. It’s time to table for extra pennies.
“Tabling” is the act of setting up a table full of your beautiful merchandise at arts and crafts fairs. You then sit at the table to chat up customers, collect money, make change, re-stock your goods, and watch for shoplifters. If you’re set up close to the next vendor, you might have a chance to strike up a conversation with her, too—maybe even make a new friend or business partner. Generally, though, you should stick close to your table and maintain a professional air. At very busy fairs, you might not even have a chance for a bathroom break!
If you have to endure four to six hours without a visit to the toilet, it obviously better be worth it. Here are tips for having the best possible experience tabling at a craft fair without letting it take away from your life as a student:
*Begin with quality products. Customers want goodies that serve some purpose, whether that purpose is aesthetic or the ability to perform an actual function. What’s even better is to combine aestheticism and function; then you’ll almost always win. A cute laundry basket, for instance, is better than just a plain sturdy one.
*Clearly price all of your merchandise. Many people are too shy to ask how much something costs, especially if they’re afraid that they can’t afford your products.
*Set a realistic monetary goal. If you’re just starting out, you can’t reasonably expect to make $2,000 at a single fair. During the first hour, predict how much you’ll make based upon your prices, the number of costumers in attendance, and the demographics of those customers. Example: teenagers don’t necessary buy the same things as elderly women.
*Do what you can to attract people to your table. A craft fair is a kind of competition—a passerby should have a reason to want to stop at your table more than the one next to it. I personally wear an elaborate costume that matches the theme of my work. If you’re not so theatrically inclined, make a big, bright sign, maybe play music, or hold a demonstration for your star product.
*Use your time wisely during the fair. It’s often difficult to guess just how many customers will drop by, so bring something like light-duty homework. Remember that novel you have to read? Or that small still-life you have to draw? Bring a book or a small sketchpad to divert yourself when crowds start to fade.
*Do your part to attract customers by promoting the fair as much as you can in advance. That means setting up a Facebook events page and inviting all of your friends who live in the area. It also means asking the festival coordinator to email you a flyer, printing out copies, and posting them any highly visible area that makes sense.
*Prepare for craft fairs well before they come. It’s hard to table every week when you’re a full-time student, but tabling every other week is possible for many students. Spend your ‘off’ weeks creating and advertising, and then your ‘on’ weeks preparing for the specific event and doing any last-minute advertisements.
*After every craft fair, always reflect about how you can improve your business tactics for the next round. Maybe you should spend less money on supplies next time or build more of something in a certain color. You might even find it productive to keep a journal about your tabling efforts.
With these tips in mind, turn off your computer and start raiding your art supplies. Your tabling empire awaits!
by Angel Neal
The most anticipated time of the year for college students is right around the corner. After a long year of hard work and dedication, it’s time to break away from the chains of feeding the brain; time for a full week to let loose and do whatever you want. Some refer to it as paradise, but the correct term is “spring break.” There are so many things you can do for your spring break, but whatever you may choose you’re guaranteed to have fun. I came up with some ideas to help you decide what you might like to do for spring break 2010.
1. Take a Vacation
Taking a vacation is the most popular spring break choice among many college students. You can relax on an exotic island, go skiing in the mountains, study abroad… the possibilities are endless. Many colleges offer cruise vacation packages for spring break for their students’ pleasure. For example, Florida Agricultural Mechanical University is offering a spring break abroad in Jamaica for only $1000. The price is not half bad, because the cruise includes airfare, ground transportation, hotel accommodations with breakfast, and several cultural excursions. A cruise may not necessarily be for you, but whatever type of vacation you prefer, don’t just sit in your dorm or apartment; live free and explore our beautiful planet.
2. Road Trip
If you’re a college student looking for a less expensive spring break activity, you could always take a road trip. Grab your best friend or your significant other and invest in a map. Road trips are the best you get to bond more with your friends while exploring an unfamiliar place. All you need is gas money, a digital camera, a map, and a suitcase full of just the necessities. Split the money between you and your friends and I promise you, depending on how far you’re traveling you will not spend more than $250. So get to the open road—but please don’t speed!
3. Head to the Beach
If you’re a college student who doesn’t want to spend any money at all, you could always head to your local beach. Nothing says spring break like an album on Facebook full of beach photos with your buddies. Also it’s a great way to meet other college students and create new friendships. Just don’t forget your sun tan lotion!
Interested in doing something out of the spring break norm? You could always volunteer. Some students don’t prefer to use this sacred week to socialize and party; instead, they love to give back. Helping out shelters, nursing homes, and children centers are only a few things you could do. After helping others you will realize just how great your own life is, and feel as though reaching out to someone else is the right thing to do. And the best thing about volunteering is that it is free, so it will cost you nothing but time.
5. Relax Relax Relax
If you’re the type of student who struggles with a course overload, extracurricular activities, and a part time job, don’t fret because spring break is here for you. You can choose to do nothing but relax. You’re not obligated to do anything for your spring break, because it’s your week off. Catch up on some must needed rest, and your body will thank you.
Students around the world enjoy your spring break. Live it up or slow it down—the decision is yours.
by Catey Gonzalez
Recently I was browsing around Facebook, just killing time, and I noticed that a lot of my friends had been busy joining groups and fan pages in support of the disaster relief for Haiti. One blurb on the news feed caught my eye in particular; about 15 of my friends had joined a group titled, “For every person who joins, we will donate $10 to Haiti!” Curious, I clicked the link to the group and found that it had over 200,000 members. At first glance this seems like a really wonderful thing—over $2 million will be sent to help Haiti! However, by the time I clicked on the link, this particular group had no remaining moderators, which means no one to follow through on the promise to donate $10 for every group member. When my friends who joined the group checked up on the status of the donation and found that there was no one left to make it, they were probably left confused and frustrated. What went wrong?
Many people would probably point an accusing finger at the moderators of the group. How could they have jumped ship like that, when they were in such a position to help? But it’s important to step back and look at the realistic picture. The moderators of this group were likely teenagers, and they probably did not anticipate that so many people would join. When they saw how much money they were suddenly expected to come up with, of course they abandoned the cause—how many teenagers do you know who have $2 million lying around? Sure, the creators of this group probably should have thought it through before they made such an outlandish promise, but the 200,000+ people who joined are arguably just as guilty in this scenario; they were engaging in slacktivism.
Wikipedia defines “slacktivism” as “a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction.” According to Wikipedia, the term was originally coined in 1995 but has become more widely used in the last decade because of scenarios like the above example. Most of the people who joined the group in the example above probably had good intentions—to help Haiti in their time of need—but they jumped on what they saw as an opportunity to help without getting their hands dirty.
Slacktivism shows itself in many different forms, including clicking a mouse to show support by joining a group or fan page, or wearing a certain color to raise awareness for a cause. There is nothing wrong with wanting to raise awareness or show that you care, and I certainly don’t want to berate people for doing those things. I would, however, like to offer some other suggestions for people who want to take their efforts one step further, specifically with the recent tragedy in Haiti.
Close to my own heart is the Hands and Feet Project, started several years ago by Mark Stuart, the lead singer of Audio Adrenaline. Stuart’s vision was to build an orphanage to take in the battered children in Haiti who need love more than anything. The Hands and Feet Project nourishes children with food, shelter, and love—the love of people and the love of Christ. Under normal circumstances it is possible to sponsor a child by monthly donations, to make a trip to Haiti to help with construction and care, or commit to a small “pocket change” monthly commitment. The Project was hit hard by the recent earthquakes, however, and their current priority is getting the orphanage back up and running as soon as possible. For more information on helping the Hands and Feet Project: http://www.handsandfeetproject.org/home.php
Also dear to me is Samaritan’s Purse, a disaster relief organization founded in 1970. The organization has been committed to providing assistance and showing God’s love to hurting areas of the world ever since its conception. They, like most, have recently focused most of their attention on Haitian relief, though as an international organization they are always in need of assistance wherever and whenever one is able and willing to give. For more information on helping Samaritan’s Purse: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php
Below is a brief list of other reputable relief organizations accepting donations towards helping Haiti at this time.
Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/
Salvation Army: https://secure.salvationarmy.org/donations.nsf/donate?openform&projectid=USN-2008_Search
World Vision: http://www.worldvision.org/
Billy Graham Evangelical Association: http://www.billygraham.org/
It’s a great idea to do some research and choose an outreach or relief organization that you can be passionate about supporting. Feel free to join those Facebook groups or wear those t-shirts, but don’t forget to back your enthusiasm up some action. Also, while it’s a truly wonderful thing to reach out to Haiti at this time, it’s also not a bad idea to turn your attention to your own community to see who might need healing and loving care—ask a pastor or other local leader how you can help right in your own backyard!
by Kelly Grenfell
I think one ambition we should all have that can’t be stressed enough is to live every day as if it were your last. In a fast world, it’s easy to think things will always keep moving, when in reality life can stop at any moment. Not just slow. Stop.
I wrote this “piece” for my brother recently, but I wanted to share it because I think it rings true for anyone who’s been through the process of pain. It’s one part of life that should never be rushed.
I know you lost a friend this weekend.
And some would say it’s selfish to ask why.
But don’t listen to them.
And cry until you have no more tears to release from your eyes.
Unwanted and unplanned, your heart faces an upward climb.
That will only pass in time.
Time that won’t rewind, or move forward fast enough.
It hurts. I know.
Day after day. Pain has made its home in your heart.
Smiles and hugs might ease your chest’s constriction for a while, but it doesn’t give you answers.
Answers you need to know, want to know, have to know…
But stop. Breathe. Think for a minute.
Would any answer to your tears really seem good enough?
No. Probably not.
It hurts. I know.
A few more days. The smiles and hugs have stopped.
There is laughter but it’s because people aren’t talking about “it” any more.
They’ve appeared to move on.
They seem “fine” in rare moments.
But it still hurts. I know.
One day. You join in the laughter.
It feels weird.
Old and unfamiliar but nice.
It hurts a little, but it’s okay.
And then one day. Pain releases it’s grip.
You won’t notice it. And that’s okay.
It’s better that way.
It will be replaced by peace.
Another unsettling feeling that will grab your heart in a different way.
It won’t answer your “why” but undoubtedly wishes it could.
It won’t be what you’ve been searching for.
You’ll never find that on this side of eternity.
But you WILL find it.
The same day, we’ll forever be okay.
And when the Creator finally chooses to remove pain’s intrusion on your heart,
Don’t be surprised if you feel another final chest contraction.
But this time, take heart,
It means you’ve reached the top of your emotional Everest.
By Katherine J. Chen
At the dinner table, I had surprised my parents with tickets to see “Wicked” on Broadway. Over steaming plates of pork buns and bok choy, I waved three tickets triumphantly in the air. My mother was ecstatic; it had been such a long time since the three of us went out together to watch a show. My father, being the more practical one in the family, asked how much the tickets had cost. I simply shook my head and returned to shoveling spoonfuls of rice into my mouth.
I had only just graduated from high school, and was offered a job over the summertime to work as a student mentor for an education start-up. Having little to no talent for financial affairs, I splurged half of my first month’s earnings on these three precious, emerald-green tickets. I could picture it now: my parents sitting in the front row, as costumed actors pranced across the stage belting out show tunes. New York awaited. The sweet smell of garbage billowing up from the sewers. The glittering lights of neon signs. Skyscrapers that plunged into the gray clouds above. I finished my dinner with zest that evening, thinking that nothing could go wrong.
Looking back, I realize that I was more than a little naïve. Two years ago, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. He wore a colostomy bag for several months during chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and was later informed by his doctor that he could remove it by undergoing a simple procedure. In mid-July, we went to the hospital together, thinking that he would be out in time for both the “Wicked” show and my upcoming birthday. A few hours after the operation was deemed a “success”, he began to vomit blood. Suddenly, every part of his body was fighting to survive what should have been a straightforward and easy operation. I still remember that summer as being one of the worst seasons of my life. Thankfully, I was able to work at home during that time, which allowed me more hours to spend at the hospital with my parents.
The situation today is not much better. In light of the economic situation, it came as no surprise when my father’s company of twenty years finally closed down. My father was not only out of a job but also still extremely weak. He could barely function without breaking down from sheer exhaustion. Lifting a lightweight chair could cause his arms to buckle and his rectum to bleed from the strain. As a result, my mother and I were forced to take over the family. She began working part-time at a major department store, and I balanced my university coursework with a job at a consulting company and several writing/editorial internships.
Pursuing a career when personal problems are raging at home is no easy task. We have no health insurance, which means that the bills for my father’s upcoming operation will require us to pay the money directly out of our own pockets. I have no interest, however, in becoming a typical sob story. My mother and I both work hard for the money we earn, and I have my eyes fixed on the bright future ahead of me.
My regular weekly schedule usually runs as follow: Two to three days spent living on campus, attending lectures, seminars, and precepts, and three days in New York City, working in the office as an editorial intern for a major magazine. After getting off at 6 o’clock and taking the 194 home, I usually begin working on writing assignments (which range from articles for magazines and websites to American literature essays) and any internship projects that are due soon. My mother’s work ethic inspires me, and my father’s sad situation invigorates my spirit. I know that after working for over twenty years in a printing factory, he deserves to be taken care of during these difficult times.
In any job, personal problems are bound to come up at some point or another, whether it is at the peak of your career or at the edge of retirement. However, it is also important to do what you love in life. I would never compromise my passion for writing for any reason, despite what is going on in my life or in the lives of others. Instead, I try to schedule time for my own creative writing, even when tensions are running high at home and my mother is all but pulling out her hair.
My parents and I have hopes and dreams for better times ahead that aren’t plagued with so many financial worries and health problems. I dream still of New York; Skyscrapers that plunge into gray clouds, glittering neon lights, dancers belting out show tunes on stage. I work for my dreams, for my career, and also, of course, for my parents.
by Christine Stoddard
Sometimes ideas grow for so long in your head that they’ll burst your brain into inconvenient bits which you will then have to scrape off the wall before your mother notices. (Eww, fleshy pink splatters and skull shards.) Or maybe that’s just one example of an experimental film that has yet to be made due to that ever-arising problem artists traditionally encounter: a lack of funds.
If you are a student artist like me, and therefore young and unestablished, money sometimes represents the only obstacle between you and realizing your vision(s). It’s not the limitations of your imagination, but rather of your wallet, that forces that installation or magazine or jewelry collection or play to go on hold.
But poverty should not discourage you, art school or creative writing program slave, from breathing life into your sketches and drafts. That’s why I’m about to reveal a whole realm of financial possibilities you probably have not yet discovered: grants. Grants are monetary awards you receive upon writing up a proposal for a super-cool project that likely benefits a population somewhere, whether that’s your campus, battered women, Christian children, war veterans, African-American teenagers, or anyone else. Some grants require an artistic angle, but grants in other fields of interest are also out there.
Many student artists don’t approach the world of grant applications. Sometimes it’s due to laziness, but more often it’s because they are not aware of all the opportunities lurking at museums, non-profit organizations, parks, magazines, and other companies with funding for creative projects. Low confidence in one’s talents is another preventing factor. You might think you don’t have what it takes to compete against other seemingly more skilled and experienced artists. But if you never take that chance, you’ll know (not to mention that a juror’s opinion of your work does not necessarily mean it is “good” or “bad”).
If you have an idea that just won’t go away, and not enough money to support it, it’s time to start researching grants. There are several ways to begin, and you may be overwhelmed at first once you realize how many funding possibilities exist. Go to your college advisor and start asking where to turn. He or she probably has access to information you can’t find anywhere else. Your advisor should be able to point out what your art school/college’s art department offers, as well as what grants the surrounding town or city gives to needy artists. I was able to find funding directly from my school thanks to two professors of mine, and I now have the money to fund a comics magazine and a documentary for the next year.
Some communities that offer varied grants for artists include ones that probably won’t surprise you: New York; Chicago; Portland; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Virginia; Seattle; San Francisco; Philadelphia; the Twin Cities; Austin; Pittsburgh. There are others, of course. Your college advisor should help you find the ones closest to your college, but also look for opportunities outside of your local area for which are you are still eligible, even if you’re not a student. If you go to an especially well-connected university, your advisor just has to make the right phone calls before you should have an application in your hands.
I understand that not all college advisors are created equal, however. A sad case, but true; you might get stuck with a dud who’s either clueless or never available. In that circumstance, you have to be especially proactive. That’s part of being a financially-successful artist, anyway: sprinting, not walking, to the next opportunity.
Go to the Internet. Use social networking and blogging websites like Craigslist (with caution and discretion, search through their ‘Gigs’ section); Facebook (searching through Groups can be surprisingly helpful); MySpace; ArtBistro.com; and Blogger.com. Also check out the websites of major organizations known for funding artists: National Endowment for the Arts (http://arts.endow.gov/), Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Art Management and Technology (http://www.TechnologyInTheArts.org/), and New York Foundation for the Arts (http://www.nyfa.org/default_mac.asp) to list a few. But there are others! Googling “artist grants,” “art grants,” “writing grants,” “creative writing grants,” and more specific variations on these terms (e.g., “Iowa artist grants”) can take you a long way. Revel in all the listings, but don’t go mad! Apply to a couple, not every single one you come across.
Also, go to local galleries, studios, writing workshops, and other art spaces in person. Check their bulletin boards and stacks of pamphlets. Speak to gallery owners, explaining that you are an art or writing student, and are eagerly seeking funding for your project. They might be able to point you to a great program or organization not well advertised online.
With all these pointers buzzing in your mind, it’s time to start the hunt! Good luck, artists!