Parents, Mentors, and Careers in the Arts

Joshua Daul

Parents unhappy with their children’s desires to enter into an artistic field as a career choice is a trope all too familiar in the modern age.

I was afraid to tell my parents that I was not going to use my medical degree, which they had so generously paid for, opting instead to go back to school to become an artist. I did not muster the courage until about a month before graduation, and their reactions were predictably grim.

Looking back I think how helpful it would have been to have a well-known, successful artist intercede on my behalf and support my belief that I was doing the right thing for my situation. Wishful thinking, right? Surely no one would have such an experience to bolster their resolve.

Cynthia Schira was afforded such an experience. Schira’s mother had hoped that she would go to Vassar or Smith to attend college. Her mother stated that these institutions “make fine young women.” Schira, however, wanted to pursue art though she didn’t receive much encouragement from her parents or her advisors at the boarding school she attended.

Schira’s mother decided to send her to a local artist, whom she believed would talk her daughter out of these far-fetched notions of making a career out of art. The local artist she was sent to was Norman Rockwell, known for his cover illustrations on The Saturday Evening Post magazine. Cynthia recalled that Rockwell didn’t try and dissuade her;, rather he stated, “You should do what you want to do.” Reflecting on her conversation with Rockwell and his advice she stated, “And so that’s what I did do.”

Did Rockwell recognize a like mind in Schira, someone with the potential to have a positive impact on the artistic world?

If only everyone could have someone the likes of Rockwell in life as a reminder to have the courage to follow their desires.

Joshua Daul is a University of Kansas graduate student in art history

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