By Laura Young
Many of my earliest memories are of art. My family was into museums, botanical gardens, and classical concerts, so I started making art very early. Through grade and high school I enjoyed drawing and painting, playing the piano, and acting/comedy improv, but I always saw the visual and performing arts as a separate practice from my academics. Art was just something I did for myself, because it was fun and pleasing, and I didn’t think much beyond that.
When I applied to college, I didn’t want to apply to art school because I liked many subjects. At the nudging of a family member, however, I applied to UCLA’s art department, and to my great surprise, I was admitted. I had turned in a portfolio but my academics did not meet the average profile of campus, so their decision confused me. More than anything else, I didn’t know what I was good at. I had plenty of things that I liked to do, but I wasn’t an expert at anything, so I wondered what UCLA had seen.
The summer before college, however, the luckiest thing happened to me: I got an internship at Disney, with a woman named Peggy van Pelt. Peggy was an executive consultant at the company, and her expertise focused on creative people: how to understand them in order to ensure their happiness, productivity, and positive development. Peggy was the first person to tell me that while I was making art, I was also cultivating many powerful creative skills.
Now that I work with artistic students in the college application process, I often hear them worry that an arts degree isn’t “sensible”. I couldn’t disagree more! Here is a short list of what artists are good at:
– Problem solving – being able to approach an issue and come up with many solutions
– Working alone with minimal supervision
– Working collaboratively
– Working effectively and in a disciplined manner
– Delivering articulate critique
– Accepting critique and utilizing feedback positively
– Being able to consider issues in the long run as well as in detail
Those of us in the arts have been listening with some amusement to the national discussion on how to develop leaders for the 21st century. Critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, creativity… artists are already fantastic at this. Of course, anyone could learn these important skills in any major, but for creative students, an arts degree program can be the best, most appropriate context to better identify and interact with the world.
So. My message to you is the same one I got from Peggy: you are already so good at so many things. Go have fun figuring out how to implement your many talents! We’re waiting for you.
Laura Young is the Director of Enrollment Management at UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/lauramyoung/.
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