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Non-Artist Parents : Validating My Passion for Art

Justin Gotzis

From first grade through tenth grade, I swam competitively. I was short and scrawny as a kid since I was one of the youngest kids in my class.  For this reason, it was never an equal playing field, and I became extremely frustrated because it seemed like my effort didn’t line up with my performance.

You might be wondering, “Why did you swim for so long then?” My answer to that is I didn’t know stopping was an option. I had been socialized by my community to believe that every child must do one sport, and that art was a mere hobby, not an extracurricular, let alone a career.

During that time period, I drew everyday. I consistently displayed a ton of interest in my school’s art program throughout elementary and middle school. Usually, I was chatty, outgoing, and bubbly, but when I entered that art room, I would become transfixed by whatever I was creating, and would only speak a few words the whole class.

No one in my family  had ever met a professional working artist in person. The few artists we did know had receded back to the suburbs in order to pursue occupations like medicine, business, and finance. This painted a bleak picture of the art world for my parents. They saw art as an extracurricular activity. A career in art seemed completely ridiculous to them. My parents and I knew so little about art school that we assumed that it would be a waste of time and money, and that it would never be an option I could pursue.

Pen & Marker Drawing, Justin Gotzis
Mixed Media Drawing, Justin Gotzis

I had to complete the arduous task of convincing not only my parents, but myself that art was a feasible ambition.  Most of the justification came from my parents seeing how much hard work I invested into creating my artwork. 

Even though my parents were outsiders to the art world, they slowly came to appreciate the visible improvements I was making within my artwork. As my high school art teacher began to see my drive and passion, she began to advocate for me to become an artist.

I realized that my parents were starting to appreciate my dedication when they let me attend a summer pre-college program in studio art. To me, this was a signal that my parents took my art seriously enough to spend a substantial amount of money on it.

Needing to justify my interest in art has definitely made me analyze my decision making process through a more critical lens. I am much more appreciative of the artistic opportunities I’ve received,  because I had to jump over so many hurdles to get to them.

Looking forward into the future, I have a lot of hope. My parents have started to not only support me as an artist, but have begun to take a genuine interest in art itself, which is more than I could have ever asked for. I can see excitement in their eyes when I show them a new drawing I made.

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