Why We're Here Wednesday: Expectations vs. Reality

Updated: Apr 20

To reiterate if you’re new and didn’t read the first article, “Why We’re Here Wednesday,” is a continued editorial on art school. Why do we go? What’s good about it? What’s bad about it? Benefits from going or not going? It’s a continued conversation in the overall experience of art school and we want to talk to as many artists as possible on what they got or didn’t get (that means YOU). Starting off we’re giving you our experiences as our baseline for the continued conversations.

So, this week I gave a prompt to two of our founders, Joseph Gardner and Andy DeVito, and it was basically, “what did you expect from art school and what did you get.” I think this is the perfect question for someone with one of those coveted art degrees that so many people seem to have but sometimes struggle to use. This is prompt we plan on asking many different artists to think about and I think it’s a question you all could take away from as well. In life I think we forget to reflect on our experiences sometimes, so reflect!

Before I get into what our founders thought of their art school experiences I’ll give a reflection of my own. I went to a performing arts high school so I was guided into art school a little more gently than I think most people are but I pulled an audible last minute and went to architecture school to start. I thought it was going to be this fulfilling use of my creativity with much more monetary opportunity and holy cow was I totally wrong. First off, there’s not a lot of big money in architecture, but more importantly it just wasn’t for me, I didn’t quite get what was being asked, I didn’t get along with my professors, and to me (not saying this is true for everyone) it just seemed like 4 years of frustrated students not quite sure what to do being tossed into a field. So that, plus that shit being way too expensive, lead to me transferring schools and back into a fine art program and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had technical talent but I wasn’t sure how to best apply that, I needed more out of my art and I think school forcing me to experiment with different mediums, applications, and so on gave that to me. I was uncertain of what I wanted to do, I didn’t know artists, I didn’t know art really, I just knew what I was good at doing and I knew that I didn’t want to do that forever. I’ve got to say, I think we could be getting more out of art school, I think changes do need to be made to make the experience better but that doesn’t mean I had a bad experience, in fact I had a great one. As a networking opportunity, a collaboration opportunity, and as a space to try new things without consequence art school changed my life and helped me discover who I am as an artist and I’m all the better for it!

So enough about me, let’s hear what two of our founders had to say!

Joseph Gardner: Acceptance to an art school always seems like a stamp of approval for

young artist. Its that reassurance that you have potential. Studying art in college

seems like it will be the necessary step before becoming famous. Obviously that

didn’t turn out to be the case. That being said art school can be an incredible tie for

personal growth. It all depends on how you take it. Realize what it is and you is for

all its worth. If you realize that pleasing professors and becoming golden boy isn’t

the goal, there is a great opportunity to realize the work that you want to make and

built a strong case for defending your intentions. Take critique from your peers and

professors for what it is worth. In all honesty they are all just opinions. Really

consider opinions of those you respect, but don’t live and die by the feedback that

you receive. There is no write answer to the work your making. Keep your own

head and defend your ideas. That doesn’t mean your work can’t evolve as you work

through classes, but evolve on your own terms. Never make work to pander to the

faculty of even peers. Whether they like it or absolutely shit on it take that with a

grain of salt.

The most important part of art school is the networking. Hands down! Forest

touched on this in the first Wednesday blog but it’s worth reiterating. There is no

other time in life when you’re in a place filled with peers that are chasing the same

thing. Collaborate, Collaborate, Co lab or ate! Build things together. Create

opportunities for yourselves. You have everything you need right there. Support

each other’s work and take on the world after school together. When you graduate

that all goes away. Connections with professors and mentors always weaken when

you’re not in a school setting. People are busy with their own things. No one gets

anywhere on their own. Make it big with your friends.

Andy DeVito:

What I expected before going to school for art:

I can’t quite remember what I expected going into an art program. I originally wanted to go to school for some form of graphic design but ended up in the fine arts program for a while.

What I took away from going to school for art:

When I started classes I realized I had a lot to catch up on. One issue that I really struggled with was learning how to have discussions about art that went further than the surface. At first I felt I didn’t know how to translate work. I had to learn a few tricks and techniques on how to look at art first, such as scanning a piece and connecting any feelings to abstract shapes and colors, studying to recognize iconography, identify any reasonably noticeable intention of sloppiness (not so important, but it helps when taking a look at your own work), so on & so forth. Unless a work’s context was obvious, it didn’t really matter if my translation was the same as the artist’s intent as long as I could communicate my thoughts well. Some work required a lot of thinking to figure my feelings out, some work only required immediate emotional responses. I learned all of this way too late, mostly developing throughout my final year.

In hindsight I wouldn’t say I had a traditional college experience, being somewhat reclusive, art was a way for me to express myself a little more openly during that time. It was very therapeutic, but I still somehow found a way to stress myself out doing what I loved. I wasn’t so much interested in the academia; I don’t think grades necessarily reflect knowledge, ha ha, but I really enjoyed studying a subject that provided a creative outlet with a timeline I could manage to grow how I wanted. I walked away very humbled but with more confidence in making work

I hope that our reflection was somewhat helpful to you in aiding your own reflection. By no means is this any sort of gospel or guarantee of experience, but it’s what we got. We want to hear what you think of art school as well and we’re going to keep asking artists. There’s a whole lot more to talk about when it comes to art school and sometimes the conversation gets lead by people who aren’t exactly experiencing school fully and we’re the ones who can make some noise and make the conversation heard by more people!

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