Lessons I Learned In Art School

OTIS sophomore photography color project

OTIS sophomore photography color project

High school students face countless questions when choosing a college and career.  They often seem unanswerable, but they’re not.  The right answer is out there – you just might need to dig a while to find it.

Many questions circle around the idea of how an art degree will translate into a career.  Should you attend an art school? Or how about a more comprehensive education at a liberal arts school or a state university?  If you choose one of the latter two, can you still focus on your art?  Conversely, are you creating a problem for yourself if you choose an art school and later on decide not to pursue a career as an artist?

The short answer is that you can get an excellent art education at any of these institutions.  So here’s my take-away:  The skills you gain by studying art will help you in whatever career path you choose.

Have you heard of the saying “everything I learned, I learned in kindergarten?”  I might amend that to art school.  As an art major you’ll gain numerous invaluable skills (besides the artistic ones!) that are transferable into any field or career.

Here are my top four:

1 – Problem solving:  It’s plain and simple; as an art student most of your time will be spent solving problems.  They might not seem like it at the time, but you’ll constantly be making choices and decisions affecting the outcome of your art.  Through practice you’ll figure out the best way to break down a problem to its bare elements, and then piece it back together again.

2 – Working with others:  For group assignments, collaboration is key.  You’ll understand the true value of it as you learn from your classmates and depend on their strengths and timeliness, as they depend on yours.

3 – Time management:  Start with the large number of studio assignments you’ll have each week.  Then add in reading requirements and expectations for other classes.  Let’s just say you’ll gain a new appreciation for jugglers.

4 – Work ethic:  This encompasses a lot: your integrity and initiative, communication, a sense of responsibility toward others (and deadlines), and the quality you produce.  Are you putting your best efforts into it? Holding others up?  And yes, you will discard a completely acceptable creation because it’s not “right” for a whole slew of reasons, or you just know you can do better.

Once you’ve made the plunge enjoy your school choice.  You’ll find campus resources to help you sort out your career path.  At an art college you’ll have more dedicated faculty and staff focused towards your particular artistic journey.  Professors and those in the Career Services department make industry resources available, stay on top of industry needs, guide you towards internship placements, and will help you network with alumni.

Art majors go on to lead creative and culturally influential lives – in whatever fields they eventually pursue.  Artists end up working in the arts, sales, management, education, and healthcare – to name just a few.

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