BY: BAILEY WESTBROOK
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON OCTOBER 8, 2019
A few weeks ago, a conversation with a friend prompted the internal question of how I can fulfill myself artistically as I venture into the foreign world of business professionals. Growing up with a drama teacher and dance instructor as my parents, I was constantly exposed to the arts in my everyday life. Playing a musical instrument was required, learning a second language started in eighth grade, and my weekends in high school were spent with my nose in a stack of the latest books. For my parents, it didn’t stop there. I’ve been to more Frank Lloyd Wright houses than most people even know exist, as well as any and all art museums that my mom could think of.
However, all the creativity I was born with and encouraged to use by my parents was stuffed away and dormant. As the “cool” high schooler that I was, I quickly rejected anything that resembled a Seurat or a Monet. All I wanted was cable to watch the latest episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and a phone plan with unlimited texting.
Starting in the business school at The University of Alabama made it much too easy to continue the same pattern I had set in my high school years. Classes made sense to me, came relatively easy, and did not push me outside of my very tiny box to see the world from a different perspective. My fine art credit was fulfilled by an online art history course that was easier than most middle school classes. Even my French major felt tedious, and I was uninspired to practice outside of class.
Cut to the summer of 2018 when I took a three-and-a-half-month trip by myself around Europe. Throughout this time, I was forced to mature a substantial amount in an incredibly short period of time. The constant exposure to new experiences and being surrounded by various international pieces of art reminded me of how important creative expression can be in everyone’s lives. Suddenly, instead of rolling my eyes at Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, I became one of the Parisians on the banks of the River Seine. Instead of groaning over impressionist paintings, I saw Monet’s waterlilies in person at his home. Art began to take on a new-found meaning, and I finally started to understand my parent’s appreciation for art .
When returning to school, I was determined not to return to the shell of what I used to be. I wanted to always feel the way I felt hearing classical music drift through the streets of Vienna or seeing Greek architecture for the first time. I just had to figure out how to feel that way in Tuscaloosa. I feared I would creep back into my shell and return to the version of myself that had a very vague sense of purpose and direction. What I found instead was that I was already surrounded by a community of people that loved art, each in their own way.
Sometimes I needed personal immersion in art and would have a painting session with friends or relearn the piano with the keyboard in my apartment. Sometimes simple exposure was enough: going to a play, a dance performance, or a music festival. Other times all it took was the joy of seeing friends build an entire career purely based on their artistic talent. It became as simple as hanging up a piece of art that my friend made for me or sending each other discovered songs on Spotify. While I wish that everyday could be another trip to the Louvre or spent visiting the Vatican, the reality is that art can be found within my own community wherever I search for it.
Over the months following my trip, I saw how art had become an integral part of my identity, defined how I acted, and shaped how I wanted to move forward in both my career and my free time. This made me realize how the arts can have a universal impact. As business or STEM majors, sometimes it’s easy to forget how we can express our unique creativity and emotion.
To sum it all up: Support your artist friends, embrace all kinds of art in your life, and $10 to anyone who can guess my favorite work(s) of art.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bailey Westbrook, native to Downers Grove, Illinois, is a senior studying economics and French. Bailey has been a member of Alpha Rho since Fall of 2017 and currently serves on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee as well as the Parliamentarian Committee. Bailey is passionate about growth and is determined to make the world a more accepting and understanding place. Bailey’s favorite thing to do is experience something for the first time. She adores her black cat, Turtle, and her life’s mantra is “Do something that scares you every day.”