The Art of Following your Dreams

Samantha Gurton sits in a makeshift director’s chair outside the Fine Arts Commons (Baraha Elkhalil / Arizona Senora News).

Go to college, major in a practical field, get a job, contribute to society, rinse and repeat.

It’s the norm, but some know there’s more to life than following the paved road.

Today these risk takers are dreamers, those who follow their passions and are faced with straying from the comfortable in order to reach their destination.

Angelina Elias, a film and television major, was stuck between pleasing her mother and going for what she wants.

Starting off as an English major, the path of study her mother wanted for her, she later switched to astronomy with a film minor, eventually making her way into film full time with a minor in marketing.

“At the end of the day I told her I wanted to do film. She was furious but she only allowed me to do it because I was doing the marketing minor. I think she just wanted me to be practical and have job security.”

She plans to work her way up to directing but for now, she looks forward to working at Downtown Tucson Partnership creating video content as a marketing manager post graduation.

“Society thinks that fine art majors are not well rounded or able to do something when it’s not true. I feel like they’re not there yet. Some people are, but most people still look at it like a fun thing not a career.”

Roxette Vasquez, an academic advisor who works with undeclared students at the University of Arizona, attributes the dilemma to influences, myths, lack of knowledge of majors offered and those who struggle with finding something that they genuinely would like to study.

“We get it all the time. All of the students that come in are either confused because somebody else is telling them to major in something that they don’t want to major in, or believing that their major defines their career.”

Vasquez helps to break down the distortions and give students their own perspective in order for them to clearly decide their own futures.

One of the points she stresses to students is the fact that they will be attaining critical skills in any area they choose that they will be able to apply to any job.

“How often can you take your degree and market it in a way that is comparing it to the job you’re applying for? Almost always.”

Vasquez notes that today’s graduates are likely to pursue many different jobs throughout their careers.

“When we talk about having a liberal arts degree or a humanities background, think about the variety of different subject areas you learned, and how you’re able to now, as you transition through careers, use your education to move through your different career opportunities.”

Samantha Gurton, also a senior majoring in film and television at the University of Arizona, had plans of pursuing business after high school but found herself applying to film schools instead.

“Earlier in high school, I thought I would be more business focused because that’s what my parents wanted for me and that’s kind of what made sense at the time.”

Though she had always loved film growing up, she never considered the practice a career choice.

“I knew it was a thing but just because of the stigma around art schools, I didn’t consider it a legitimate option, until it hit me that it was something I really wanted to pursue.”

Then she saw The Avengers during her junior year in high school and her mind was made.

Seeing all her comic book characters come to life on screen was the spark that ignited her desire to be a part of filmmaking.

“It just clicked with me.”

Now nearing the end of her studies in the film program, she reflects on her time spent studying something her heart is in.

“For me, it’s worth it. Personally, I am fine living in a crappy apartment in L. A. for a long time if it means that I get to do something that I love.”

Many consider following their dreams too risky, but for some it only acts as a barrier that they will be proud to overcome.

“It’s taking a risk. The arts isn’t something that everyone is cut out for and it is challenging and you have to work at it a lot and there are no guarantees in the long run, but that’s part of what motivates people.”

Gurton’s advice: just go for it.

“Even if it’s joining a club on campus or taking one gen-ed class in that field, give it a shot because a lot of people I know took that one random film class or saw a flier for a club and they’re like, ‘that’s actually interesting’ and they realize that it’s something that they can actually study and do. Just give it one shot and see where it can take you, because sometimes that’s all you need, just that little push in the right direction.”

Ashley Rubin, the fine arts academic advisor at the University of Arizona, says she gets the conflicting hardship from students all the time.

“I think it’s a problem with our society. There’s a blatant disrespect and distrust of the arts just because of the misconception of what goes on in an art school.”

But she does her best at educating people of what it means to graduate with a liberal arts degree.

“People underestimate the arts. Whether you’re in art history, whether you’re a musician, it is the one area of study that premieres throughout all other areas. When it comes to artists, what do you hear? You hear the struggling artist. No one ever calls a graphic designer who does Nike’s logos or Disney’s branding the genius.”

And when it comes to actually implementing their education, Rubin reassures students that a job after studying the fine arts is a reality.

“People forget that for every major out there, you could tie it back in with art.”

Take psychology and art therapy, marketing and graphic design or photojournalism – they’re all careers that fine art majors could pursue.

“I want students to know that, especially students who are having doubts about pursuing art degrees, you need to block out outside noise and you need to listen to yourself and never doubt yourself. It always works out in the end.”

Baraha Elkhalil is a reporter for Arizona Señora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact at

Click here for a Word version of the story and photos



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