Erik Schlicht, a theater major at the University of Rhode Island, is obtaining a Fine Arts degree in defiance of the common idea that it is a waste of time.

Schlicht gave a Ted Talk on Feb. 10 titled “The Myth of the Starving Artist,” in which he challenges the idea that getting an arts degree is impractical. He spoke about various ways of how an arts degree can contribute positively to a student’s career after college.

“I challenged the notion that arts degrees are impractical majors,” said Schlicht. “I found data that refuted that notion, and I kind of just presented that data along with my personal experiences to kind of advance this argument.”

He stepped forward to challenge this myth because he knows that anyone who has considered pursuing a degree in the arts has come into conflict with someone being told their degree is impractical. Schlicht himself went through this.

“I almost decided to not major in Theater because everybody around me told me it was a bad idea and I know I’m not the only one,” said Schlicht.

He looked past that and majored in Theater despite other people’s opinions. Schlicht is pursuing his degree with an acting concentration, and he has political science as a second major. Schlicht isn’t entirely sure if he wants make a career of acting, but he has come to realize that his theater background has taught him many life lessons such as proper public speaking skills and that it’s good to take risks.

He further explained how he’s learned that when something unexpectedly goes wrong, just to keep moving forward. Theater also taught him about responsibility to others.

“When other people are relying on you…it kinda teaches you ‘I need to get everything together and things done on time,’” said Schlicht. “You don’t want to be letting down these people who you care deeply about.”

Schlicht was introduced to theater in the ninth grade pretty much by accident when he was put into a drama class because of  the overload of students interested in taking art. He had very little interest in drama when starting out but was quickly sucked in. Since then he’s really come out of his shell. Schlicht explained how withdrawn he was before doing theater. Now he’s much more engaged with what’s going on around him on and off the stage.

“I feel like I’m a completely different person after theater because I just changed and grew so much,” said Schlicht. “A lot of things I’m doing right now, from auditioning to that Ted Talk to managing my majors wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t had theater. So that’s been like a night and day difference.”

Art majors are taught to think in more creative, less constrictive ways, and as a result they see the world in a different light. Schlicht has expressed that there’s a lot that being a Theater major teaches students, from new concepts to how to form connections with people, to public speaking and more.

“Working in the arts in general keeps you a different way of thinking, makes you more compassionate,” said Schlicht. “It makes you a lot better than you would otherwise be. It opens up a lot of doors, and for that reason I definitely want it to be a part of my life from here on out.”

Schlicht knows that he’s going to benefit from achieving a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater, no matter what career field or job he pursues after college.

“Right now I’m looking more towards cultural studies,” said Schlicht. “I’m really interested in foreign policy and diplomacy. If I do get involved with that kind of stuff, the acting background is going to help me a lot. Being able to confidently engage, confidently speak in front of crowds, those are all skills I think are going to give me an edge in that field.”