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Art School: Is That the Path for You?

You’re continually sketching in your notebook (when you should be taking notes on Kafka or the Pythagorean Theorem).  The pants you wear are always muddied with paint splotches.  And you get excited when a whiff of acrylic passes under your nose.  Indeed, your passion for visual art knows no bounds.  Moreover, you’re intrigued by the prospect of pursuing art on a greater level.  However, the idea of attending art school gives you - not to mention your parents - pause.  Is art school really for you?

Fear not; many students become anxious when trying to decide whether or not art school is the route they should take.  Often times, people worry that the focus might be too narrow or that the degree might not be marketable.  While those fears do have (some) substance behind them, art school is a great option for some students, especially those who are creatively (but not necessarily academically) minded.

It’s imperative that you recognize that art school is not a four-year vacation from work and responsibility.  Regardless of whether your chosen focus is ceramics, graphic design or photography, many programs are quite demanding and require dedication and diligence.  Art is a serious and important discipline and whatever program you attend will expect you to treat the subject matter accordingly.  

Of course, there are numerous benefits to attending art school.  Aside from the aforementioned rigor, art school allows you to tap into a community of like-minded individuals.  Your peers will likely be as zealous as you are about your chosen discipline.  And you will be able to rely on each other for inspiration, collaboration and future networking possibilities.

Perhaps more importantly, you’ll be introduced to a myriad of techniques and mediums.  You will learn new ways of looking at art and of developing ideas.  You’ll be forced to stretch yourself, to produce a handful of work and to meet deadlines.  And, of course, you will have to withstand a number of critiques (great preparation for the commercial world).  

Additionally, many of your professors will be working artists themselves.  They are likely to become mentors and they’ll certainly be able to bestow not only creative advice but professional as well.  They’ll have a toe-hold in and an understanding of the current art world that you might find invaluable.

Further, it’s common for art schools to maintain a career services office that understands how to facilitate a job search for a targeted market.  Indeed, career counselors at these institutions are quite adept at helping students navigate what is perceived to be a difficult and fickle profession. And industry players are likely to come running to art schools with reputable programs. 

While art school might not be the frightening investment you thought, you should only consider applying (and enrolling) if you’re truly certain that this is the track you want to pursue. If you think you might want to study European history in addition to painting or if you only really want to dabble in sculpture, you’re not a great candidate for art school.  In these scenarios, we recommend looking for a liberal arts college or university that contains an art department.  This way, you’re able to explore and study art but you don’t necessarily need to commit to the discipline.   



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Don Munce