Ad Campaign Creates Controversy Within the Arts

Wells Fargo released print advertising for their Teen Financial Education Day on the 17th of September, an event that was designed to educate and get teens focused on the importance of a stable financial future. While Teen Financial Education Day sounds like an important and beneficial event, the ads were almost immediately taken down after a storm of criticism flooded social media over the ads that appeared to encourage teens to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, rather than in the arts.

The ad depicted teenagers, each with a different caption. One example is, “A ballerina yesterday. An engineer today.” Another reads, “An actor yesterday. A botanist today.” Underneath each, it’s followed with the line, “Let’s get them ready for tomorrow.”

As a result, those who have made their living as artists, actors, dancers and musicians were outraged at the ads. Although many agree it wasn’t the intention of the company, the campaign seemed to discourage against a career in the arts.

Choir director Anna Osterman was one of the many who felt that the ad was advising teenagers against looking seriously into a fine arts career.

It’s frustrating, because so many people look at music in a ‘when are you going to get a real job’ kind of way. The ad made it sound like fine arts jobs don’t really matter,” Osterman said.

Although this was a first for Wells Fargo, it was in no way something those working in the arts had never heard before. Young people aspiring toward a career in the fine arts frequently face opinions of others, such as family, teachers, and mentors, persuading against their career choice to a ‘safer’ option.

Josh Payne, who graduated in 2016 from Brandeis, is currently attending Stanford and double majoring in music and physics, shared one such instance.

“My parents were concerned about me going into the fine arts but willing to help me out in the STEM field,” Payne said. “It’s a valid opinion, and it holds some weight. The people who are going to be successful are the ones who’ll go against that grain. We don’t deem other types of success as important, but I think that in the end what matters is what kind of success everyone’s looking for.”

A lot of people believe that the reason majoring in the fine arts is so risky is because of there being fewer job options than in other fields. And while that may be true in some instances, it isn’t always the case. The arts has a wide range of possible careers, not all of which include being an actor, singer, musician, artist, or dancer.

Senior Ruben Ortega plans to major in music and wants to teach choir to high school students.

“I think that a lot of people don’t know enough about the fine arts and they think ‘oh, if you go into the fine arts you’re not going to make it because there’s only one Michael Jackson, and there’s only one Beethoven, and so on. In reality, there’s a whole lot more to the fine arts than just that,” Ortega said.

So what can we do to encourage rather than discourage those who are hoping for a career in the arts? History teacher Matt Lopez, who was a fine arts major for his first year of college before switching, had a suggestion.

“I think that we can be more supportive of kids and college students and support their interests more. In general, society doesn’t appreciate art enough. It’s definitely important, and not enough people understand that,” Lopez said.

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