Like many of you, I am at an age where people insist on asking me what I plan to do with my life. The question in and of itself is innocent enough, even if it is tedious to answer it over and over again. However, in my experience, sometimes the reactions to my answer aren’t quite as well-meaning. The noticeable change in attitude tends to appear roughly .8 seconds after I answer with, “I go to ART SCHOOL.” For some reason, some people hear “art school” and think that its their cue to spew a bunch of nonsense at whoever will listen. There are a number of questionable comments I have received, so I will now respond to a few of them with a “polite” explanation of why each opinion is suspect. I will be including pictures that demonstrate the face I want to make when I hear these statements.
“Isn’t that a waste of money?”
This one is pretty ignorant for two reasons. First of all, who the hell is going to answer that question with, “Yeah man, I’m flushing tens of thousands of dollars down the drain just because”? No one except maybe Dan Bilzerian or Chief Keef. A waste of money isn’t a definable thing, it’s an opinion. And we all know the old saying, Opinions are like assholes, if you don’t clean them up and keep them to yourself then they freaking stink. Or something like that.
Education is never a waste of money. And art school provides an environment where young artists can completely immerse themselves in creativity and opportunity. The chances to work with established professionals, network with other artists and learn the skills required to become successful are extremely valuable. Just like any other educational institution, you get out of art school what you put in. A kid who goes to college for graphic design that works hard, networks and pays attention is most likely going to be more successful than a kid who is in school for engineering but is partying non-stop and skipping classes.
“How do you plan on making a living from that?”
This one isn’t so much obnoxious as it is short-sighted, because it implies that our chosen fields don’t have or won’t have value. Of course, this isn’t always intentional, but neither is indecent exposure and we still address that whether it was deliberate or not. This particular question insinuates that money is the ultimate measure of success and worth. Money is fun, and cool and I want more of it, but not at the expense of things like ethics, dignity and passion. I know I would be miserable working in an office environment, I’ve done it before, and I’d rather not go back.
When you walk around a city, you hear buskers singing songs, see beautiful painted murals on the sides of buildings, and enjoy (hopefully) well-designed public parks, keep in mind that those things are all created by artists. Now imagine your city without any of these things. Would it be a pleasant and interesting place? Probably not as much. The value an artist provides is primarily cultural and that is just a valuable as cold hard cash to some people.
“Good luck with the job hunt.”
Now this one is probably the rudest and least productive of the art school opinions. It seems like the people who say this are trying to be equal parts clever and insulting. I’ll say this now, on the humor scale, this lands somewhere between locking your keys in the car, and toe fungus. Taken at face value, the comment could be meant as genuine well wishes, but because it is always accompanied by an eye roll, a chuckle or a shit-eating grin, we can assume that was not the intention.
Here is something that people like this don’t realize. A lot of the people who go to art school won’t need luck with the job hunt because our intentions are to create our own luck. I find that a lot of the art school doubters are the same people who are content to just punch a clock day in and day out. These are also the same people that complain about their jobs constantly. So when they tell me, “Good luck with the job hunt”, what I hear is, “I disapprove of your choices because I want you to be as miserable as me.”
What can we take away from all of this?
At this point, you are either (hopefully) nodding your head in agreement or at least understanding, or asking, “Andrew, is there a point to this article at all?” Of course there is a point. Beyond pointing out a few of the art school stereotypes and misconceptions, I want people who are following their dreams to remember that you do not need the approval of random people and skeptics to validate your choices. Whether your goal is to illustrate children’s books, become a world class music producer, or even make giant vagina sculptures (Seriously, not only is this a thing, but a guy got stuck in one of them. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/23/student-gets-trapped-in-vagina_n_5522066.html), you don’t owe an apology or explanation to anyone.