Useless Fine Arts Degrees

Here’s a question,

“What are you going to do with that dance degree?”



Perhaps I am extremely lucky that I did not have to justify the value of dance in higher education to my friends or family. No one really asked me this question. It was an obvious pathway to me and my parents that I would further my training at an excellent institution at which point I would dance professionally, teach, and choreograph. When I majored in Dance Pedagogy, no one told me to make a more ‘practical choice’.

Apparently, NBC does not agree and called FIne Arts degrees the #1 useless thing a person can do with their time during college.


Artist and author, Allison Caw, of the Huffington Post put up an excellent retort to this claim. She says,

“My definition of “useful” doesn’t reside in a construct or a chosen paradigm. It resides in the reality of the human heart, mind and spirit. It pertains to what makes us human. To be human is not to make money. To be human is to create. To be human is to think, question, feel, imagine. These are our defining characteristics. To be human is to be fully and unruly alive.”

She addresses the aforementioned questions that I mercifully dodged, and how she began undervaluing her own work. She describes trying to find meaning and purpose in her own work and even herself. She describes her service through art through this work:

Currently, I am working as a performing artist by helping to train law enforcement, medical practitioners and educators in Crisis Intervention Training. I portray people going through mental health crisis, trauma or life crisis and role-play with officers, EMTs and students. The goal is to help the participants develop emotional intelligence, compassion, empathy, communication and de-escalation skills so that they can better serve their communities. The work is incredibly powerful and serves as a reminder.  That my artistic training serves the community as a whole.

Just imagine a world where police officers and lawyers had to validate themselves by how they help artists in their work. Doctors finally winning a grant only after their tireless investigations and practice inspires the work of an artist. Does art itself not contribute greatly to society? I sure think so. (The full HP article)

I agree whole-heartedly with Ms Caw but take issue with the idea that artistic training doesn’t serve the community without collaboration. I can think of enormous benefits from going to see a play or listening to the symphony. Art does not need to be a teaching tool to better someone ‘useful’ in their own job. Art is not an underlying support of the structures of civilization. It is the oldest and truest expression of people as far back as history goes.


image via


image via


Chinese Fan dancing- image via


French Minuet- image via


Classical Indian Dance- image via

Let’s not questions the validity of our work as it pertains to others NBC or whoever has deemed more useful. Art in itself, is useful and not to be diminished in terms of societal value. Or if art has no value, let’s also decide that all necessary student loans to get those degrees are also useless. I’m pretty sure no one would object with that one.

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