Should You Go to Art School to Be a Good Artist?

Even regular colleges have their benefits for art students, but art schools also have plenty to offer.
September 29, 2017
7 mins read

When the time comes and the pressure is on to decide which college you’ll attend, most people typically have a range of regular universities to choose from. For those wanting a career in the arts, however, art school is a pretty attractive option. This was a fork in the road that I came to in my senior year of high school, which was a magnet school for the arts. I originally was set on continuing the art school track, thinking that was the only option if I wanted to work in film and creative writing. Then, I did more research and found that going to a regular college was better for me. From being a former arts student and living in the same city as SCAD, I’ve been exposed to the benefits and downsides of both options.

Upsides of Art School:

For one, the curriculum is pretty much art classes all day, every day. So, students are constantly studying their passions and letting their creative juices flow. There are usually some regular academic classes that are required, but the focus in that area isn’t very heavy, so those who aren’t the best at solving math problems or deciphering Aristotle won’t have to stress so much about that. And in those art classes, you’ll learn valuable techniques that’ll make you a better artist. I still apply what I learned in my numerous high school art classes, even though I graduated a little over three years ago.

Another really good benefit is the networking opportunities. If the professors are good, then they’ve worked in the field that they’re teaching. Not only does this mean that you’re getting expertise from the pros, but it also means that getting to know your professor could mean making good connections that’ll help you in your career. Since they’ve worked in their field, and are usually still taking jobs between semesters, they could connect you with a dance director or gallery owner who could help you tremendously. Your professors could even ask you to help them with their own projects! In addition, you’re surrounded by fellow artists you could collaborate with, as well.

The last upside is being surrounded by your own kind. Aside from a select few who are in it for the glamour of a successful art career, everyone else is an artist like you. This leads to making fun and eccentric friends that will guarantee that the four years won’t be dull.

Downsides of Art School:

It’s expensive! Basically, the total cost of tuition and fees ends up looking like a phone number. And that number isn’t 911, though that’s what you might end up dialing after seeing your bill. Unless you’ve somehow ended up with a full-ride scholarship or a really good college savings plan, you’re going to end up with a hefty amount of student debt. Many students, however, also come from wealthy families. While there are some nice rich kids, there are also several who are pretentious, whom you’ll most likely have to deal with if you go to art school.

A second downside is uniformity. Because you’re being taught the same things in your classes, there’s a risk of having your artwork look just like everyone else’s. Sure, you could nurture your own style, but then there’s also the common complaint that professors will say that your style isn’t art because it doesn’t conform to classic, fine art standards.

The last downside is you don’t sleep. This may be true for pretty much all kinds of colleges, but sleep is pretty much a luxury in art school. To complete the assignments by the deadline, you have to spend long hours in the studio since paintings and film projects take much longer than a paper. For performance majors, like actors and musicians, you have to do rehearsals in addition to any other assignments you may have. If you have a job on top of all that, you’re probably going to have a long-distance relationship with your bed.

Upsides of Regular School:

One major upside of going to a regular school instead of an art school is the wide range of course options. You could major in theatre and minor in biology or vice-versa, which you can’t do at an art school. This was one of my main reasons for choosing a regular college, so that I could minor in history to supplement my creative writing. There’s also freedom to explore other fields by taking electives.

There’s also a greater variety of people you’ll meet. Artsy people are fun, and you’ll still encounter them, but you’ll also find individuals from other spheres, such as engineering or business. Having friends from a diverse range makes life much more interesting. In addition, they could connect you with others that you might not otherwise find by hanging out solely in the art world.

Another upside is that you’ll have more time. Since regular colleges aren’t hardcore when it comes to art classes, only about half of your semester’s credit hours are dedicated to them instead of all. The other hours are spent in non-arts classes, which don’t require spending hours upon hours on one assignment.

Downsides of Regular School:

Outside of the art classes, it’s hard to connect with other artists. I draw and paint on a frequent basis, but I take creative writing classes instead of visual arts. To find other creative writers, I just go to class. But to find other visual artists, we have to encounter each other by chance. Most of the people beyond the arts classrooms don’t share your passion with you.

It’s also hard to get the classes you want. Beginner-level classes are always offered, an upper-level course sometimes might only be offered every other semester or every other year. Filling up that checklist to graduate means that you might have to be patient and you might graduate before that one class that you really want is offered again.

The most obvious downside is that you’re not spending your entire time doing art. Because of other classes, there might be some days when you don’t get to do it at all since you’re reading or writing papers. That can get frustrating when the creative urge is there, but there’s no time to let it out.

August Pritchett, Armstrong State University

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August Pritchett

Armstrong State University
English Communication

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