Balancing academics, artistic endeavors creates internal conflict for students

Jose Gonzalez

Many UT undergrads share a dual identity as students and artists, but the burning question is how to strike a balance without letting day-to-day challenges consume them and their art.

Students who strive for careers as independent artists have to deal with many external and internal pressures on campus, whether it’s a tight schedule or stress and anxiety. For those who do manage to juggle courses and produce art, their creativity provides an escape and an outlet to express oneself.

English junior Abbi Gamm, for example, writes poetry and has had her work published in Hothouse, a campus journal for creative writing. Gamm said college life can be very suffocating and it sometimes feels like her studies keep her from expressing who she really is.

“For me, writing is what I enjoy most and makes me feel the most human. So when I physically can’t because I’m so busy, it kind of makes me feel guilty,” Gamm said. “It makes me feel as if I wasn’t reaching my full potential as a student.”

Before coming to UT, Gamm was home-schooled, and she said coping with that transition was very difficult to do. Her work has also been influenced by campus tragedies such as that of Haruka Weiser and Harrison Brown, yet time constraints have played a role in altering her artistic style.

“It makes my writing more angsty and structurally I just kind of shove a lot of words together, like a stream of consciousness,” Gamm said. “There’s been limited time to work on what I enjoy, so there’s always a haste to get your thoughts out.”

Gamm finds ways to make time for poetry within her daily schedule, such as when she feels the urge to procrastinate on homework. She said she seeks feedback from her professors and that being an artist means both working with and against your situation in order to find your balance.

Economics senior Hank Freeman also found a way for his college life to complement his artwork. Freeman works at The Foundry in the Fine Arts Library, utilizing the recording studio to produce experimental tracks for his new album, Rebuild.

“There are definitely setbacks, especially when you are pursuing an art that is completely separate from your field of study,” Freeman said.

Freeman likes to experiment with distinct genres, from bluegrass to metal. He said the reason he didn’t choose music as his major is because focusing on one subject stifles his creativity, and having variety in day-to-day life inspires him.

“Economics and music can be really antithetical, but that helps my creative process because there’s so much contrast there to squeeze great art from it,” Freeman said.

With so many resources on campus, there exists the unprecedented issue of students feeling they have all the connections they need to drop out of college and devote themselves to their craft. Radio-television-film sophomore John King said he pondered that same thing his freshman year.

“This past semester, I considered numerous times just dropping out and making films full time,” King said. “The reason I’m okay with going to UT now and juggling both things is I realized I didn’t just want to be thrown into the real world. I’m 19 years old.”

These circumstances are common since prior to attending UT, Freeman also drove out to New York City to focus on his craft. He said his experience taught him that being a young artist hinges on being
challenged intellectually.

“UT wasn’t just a creative scene for me,” Freeman said. “I also learned to appreciate the slow process of building an artistic career, and gaining that tolerance changed me in so many ways.”