Why You Should Go to Art School

My younger sister is enrolled in her first year at OCAD University and took me for a tour around her campus during my last visit to Toronto. I was amazed by the energy, colour and community present in every corridor, collaborative space and classroom, and reminded her every few steps of how lucky she was to be in an environment that endorses creativity. (By "reminded" I mean that I would collapse against the nearest coloured wall, throw my hands up dramatically, and wail indistinguishably about my comparably mundane life.)

Why didn't I go to art school?

This is a question that many people have asked me and I continue to ask myself. I think, largely, I was receiving a lot of bad advice about what it means to be an artist. The public perception of an art career is one of struggle, poverty and limited opportunity, with only a few lucky randoms ever attaining success (post-mortem, of course). And so the bait of financial security, stable routine and career longevity while you're still alive lures you into a major you're only half interested in.

But none of that is true. As posed by Jonathan Li in the image below, "What if nothing was designed?" Art is such an integral part of our daily living that we've become desensitized to it. There are so many opportunities in art for which an art school will prepare you. I've watched my sister expand her portfolio more in the last three months than she has in the past year, learn how to use advanced design and illustration software, practice various mediums and deliver exceptional content to "clients" (her professors) under extreme pressure.

Below are three common misconceptions about art school that I wish I had known six years ago when I was applying to universities:

1. Art school is a last resort.

I was told throughout my life--by my parents, teachers and peers--that art school was for people that weren't good at anything else. I would actually argue it's the opposite. You can be good at a lot of things but having a raw artistic talent is a special, treasured thing. Secondly, this implies that an art major is somehow easier than any other major. This depends on what your natural talents are. If you're naturally a strong writer, then of course a degree in literature will be easier for you than a degree in engineering. It makes sense to follow your strengths and talents in any other field, so why is art any different? Art school is incredibly competitive, stressful, expensive, and mentally and physically draining.  

2. You don't need art school to get an art job.

This, in part, is true. You can get a job in almost any field without having the exact academic specifications. However, art school provides the opportunity to build and broaden your portfolio, learn various software programs, gain exposure to the art world and network with like-minded peers and industry professionals. 

3. You will be a starving artist.

If people would pay artists fairly for the work they do, then maybe it wouldn't be such a precarious career (*sips tea*). But regardless, there are numerous opportunities for work--from galleries, commissions and competitions to licensing, branding and design.