Does anyone remember the show "My Life as Liz"? MTV used to have marathons of it all the time when I was in middle school. Yeah that show inspired me to go to art school. It was the second season and Liz was leaving her mildly attractive boyfriend that she tried so hard the first season to get to move to New York. She would be starting school in the fall at Pratt Institute, a highly acclaimed art school. Something about living in New York to study art was so glamorous to me. Despite the fact that this was my first introduction to this show and the idea of art school in general, in my little 13-year-old heart I knew I was going to go to art school. And here I am now 17 years old and off to art school in the fall.
And even though my fascination started off as superficial in the beginning, I can assure you that I heavily researched everything about art school and all my alternatives. I'm also actually pretty decent at art unlike middle school me so that helped.
Usually young artists have three main options to hone their craft. They can be self taught, they can go to a four year college or university or they can go to art school. Art school by the way is a college or university that specializes in arts education. While some focus on visual arts, others can include performing arts and creative writing.
While researching art school this past winter, I came across a lot of articles and Tumblr asks asking, "Should I go to art school?" The argument basically comes down to people against art school saying, "Art school is too expensive. You can get the same education some where else," and people for art school saying, "Nah uh." Regardless both sides make valid points. Let's break it down.
First, the most prominent argument against art school is the price. Tuition for most top art and design schools can range from around $35,000 to $50,000 a year. Tuition for the Rhode Island School of Design is around $45,000 a year. The Maryland Institute College of Art is around $42,000 a year and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is around $42,000 a year as well. With tuition that high, the cost of attendance easily can get to be $60,000 a year. And for many people that is beyond unaffordable.
Many young adults don't understand how much money that is and are quick to just take out student loans to cover the cost. Then they come out of graduation with $200,000 in debt, which is only justifiable if you are becoming a doctor or orthodontist. And art schools aren't known to give out huge scholarships either. Typically art schools don't have huge endowments so they don't have a magical amount of money to just give out. Only a couple people really end up getting enough money to cover their costs. And because art school is so expensive people get upset when their education doesn't come with all the bells and whistles. Some people might not like the fact that art schools tend to have smaller student populations or no math classes. It is also important to note that if you decide that you hate art, you are basically stuck. And that would really suck.
On the other hand, there are a lot of positives for young artists hoping to go to art school. First, art school gives art students structure and discipline. At some of the top art schools, students are required to take eight-hour studio classes and then complete 30 plus hours of homework a week. Art schools have the advantage in that their students are fully immersed in art and they can dedicate all their time to their craft. This immersive community also surrounds students with a range of creative people whether its their classmates or teachers — which also leads to the huge opportunity to network and open up doors for employment opportunities after college.
Which is basically why I want to go to art school.
Before I give my opinion I think it's important to note that I did receive a substantial scholarship from my school and have parents who are willing to help me cover the rest. Without those two things I probably would have ended up majoring in art at a university.
I don't think I've ever really considered not going, but I've had extensive periods of doubt. And in those moments I would end up thinking about how unique the art school experience is. Sure, plenty of universities have huge art departments and people who are self-taught can join groups to imitate that same feel. But art schools are institutions that are solely dedicated to building their students into remarkable artists. Even your non-studio classes, no matter the subject: business, psychology and everything in between, have an artistic twist. And personally I need that space to become completely submerged into art.
On top of that, being self-taught or studying at a four-year university or college won't provide me with as much resources. A lot of art schools are closely knit with the art community and have industry standard software and technology. Their connections with the art world also provide students with internships and post graduation job opportunities. You still have to fight for it, but there's more available.
What it really comes down to is the fact that I am willing to give 1000 percent into my art education and plan to exhaust my school of everything it can give me. To me, you really have to be able to kick some booty in order to make art school worthwhile. You have to make yourself join clubs, study in the library, go to artist lectures and learn as much as you can. You can't go to art school and skate by. There's absolutely no point in that. If you are not excited to be miserably tired by the end of every day, don't waste your money. But I'm really trying to make it worth the cost or at least half of it.
Lead Image Credit: Patricia Belle-Scruggs