Is Going to Art School Worth it?
If visual art is your passion, you may be asking yourself: do I need to go to art school? Art isn’t an academic subject so studying it at university surely won't serve me in the same way an academic degree would? You might be tempted to skip the student debt and venture straight out in the working world. But before you do, let us pitch our thoughts on why you should give art school a chance. It might well be just what you need to truly nurture your creative talent.
As an artist, you may feel that a university structure almost contradicts the freedom and independence of spirit required to be an artist. Interesting point. But this issue is more complex than it seems. If you choose one that aligns with your own artistic values, the best art schools will provide a combination of structure and a laissez-faire approach designed to help you become the best artist you can be. You’ll be given studio space and deadlines to work towards. It will create structure and focus – things that can actually be very useful for anchoring all that creative energy.
The work that you will be asked to do as part of your course will encourage you to think about your art in an entirely new way. This can include writing about your practice, discussing it with your tutors, or doing presentations on it. These processes allow you to interrogate your own creative approach and learn more about yourself as an artist. How’s that for personal growth?
Testing the waters
While being a student is obviously not the same as being a working artist, studying can give you a taste of what it’s like to devote your days to creating art. It’s very different to the A-level era, when you juggled at least three subjects.
Art is well and truly in the spotlight now, so art school can really help you work out whether the life of an artist is for you. It may even give you ideas for other ways to use your creative talent in your career – animation or set design, for example.
Learning new skills
In addition to being given the space and structure to work intensively on your own artistic experiments, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in skills classes. These will introduce you to a range of different specialisms; art schools offer numerous options from sculpture to graphic design to mixed media printmaking.
The great thing about skills classes is that they provide a space to play around, make mistakes and ask for guidance from experts. You’ll be encouraged to experiment with artistic areas that you perhaps would not otherwise have thought to explore. Over the course of these classes, you might well find yourself falling into a niche you never knew you were destined for!
Art history modules are not to be missed either. It’s virtually impossible to overstate the importance of art historical awareness for budding artists. It broadens your understanding of the traditions in which you’re working and gives you inspiration as to how to move beyond these traditions. In-depth knowledge of what’s come before you is the key to getting your art up to those professional levels of sophistication and originality.
Meeting like-minded individuals is a huge reason that we feel going to art school is worth it. Discussing art with people who share your passion is one of the great joys of being an art student. It encourages you to develop alternative perspectives and challenge ideas you have about your own practice. (That might sound scary but, trust us, it’s amazing!).
Not only does meeting fellow artists in the making allow you on-demand access to these important conversations, it also creates opportunities for collaboration. You and other students might work together on a piece, or even organise a group exhibition together. It’s also an excellent way of creating contacts in the art world who may be able to help you out in the future.
Speaking of the future, art school is also incredibly useful for learning about the increasingly competitive art world that awaits you once you graduate. As much as we’d prefer not to sully it with market values, fine art is an industry like any other. If you’re hoping to make money as an artist, it is important to bear that in mind.
At art school, you’ll gain detailed insights on how best to market your work, the commercial gallery structure and much more. Your tutors will, for the most part, be working artists and able to tell you about their careers and experiences. Ideally, you’ll graduate firmly in the knowledge that– if you’re savvy enough – becoming a successful artist is possible after all.
Have we persuaded you?
Hopefully we’ve answered the question of whether going to art school is worth it. These big life choices are never straightforward, but creative talent is a precious cargo; one that needs to be taken care of and lovingly cultivated. We strongly encourage you to give your artistic ability the nourishment it deserves and seriously consider art school. Who knows where it could take you!
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