What They Don’t Teach You in Art School

It’s Dialogue time! I can’t believe we’re on to Episode Ten! If you’ve missed the first nine episodes, you’re in for a treat. Check out the archives right here.

Today’s topic is pretty self-explanatory; we’re getting the inside scoop on art school from our resident experts! Comment below to join the dialogue— Did you attend art school? If so, what do you wish you would have learned?

Related episode(s): The Future of Art/Design

  • this has been the most interesting for me. And i agree on some things here too (like I always do, anyway) :)

  • I agree entirely. Sometimes it can be frustrating–doing what the instructors want you to do, for someone like me who likes to do things my own way. But it is worth it.

    My school(University of Wisconsin-Green Bay) has an “arts management” minor, which teaches the business side of things. But it wasn’t geared toward artists, it was geared toward arts administrators. However, as an artist you can take a lot from that info so it was very helpful.

    My school also has “gallery/museum practices” classes, where you can work in the campus art gallery for the semester and learn how to hang work, do lighting, and everything else that goes into an exhibition. That is also essential to know as an artist.

  • I went to art school when I was in high school, it was a nice mix between theory classes and art classes, I think its was 50/50…I remember that I learned a lot there and it’s also the place where I realised that I wanted to be an artist. Then I started my first bachelor year of graphic design and in the middle of the year I found out that I hated designing things for other people, I just wanted to do what was in my head, so I switched to fine arts. After 4 years of art school, I dunno I’m just fed up with it, I don’t learn anything from my teachers and I’d rather just do art on my own. I know that I have enough ideas in me to keep me going. I quit school a couple of weeks ago and I love it, art is so much more fun again. I think I’m one of those persons who doesn’t really need art school to keep them motivated or for guidance or assignments. I’d rather learn it all on my own through experimenting, making mistakes, falling down and getting up again

    Love, Jules

  • Great episode!!! After I graduated from undergrad, I became really frustrated and a little resentful at my school for not preparing me for “real life”. I didn’t need my hand held, but I think it would have been nice for them to address how to put together an artist resume, how you might go about getting grants/funding, and how you approach galleries for shows. I figured it out, but I hope for future graduates they add this to their curriculum.

    I’ve tossed around the idea of getting an MFA, but $$$ has prevented me from going that route. But after listening to this episode, it makes me want to reconsider and say to the heck with it!

  • to katie–Trust me, I am going to be in a lot more debt by attending grad school however for me it is totally worth it. I feel if there is something in life that you want, you should do it, life is too short to not pursue what you want.

  • Love your thoughts! I am TOTALLY not an artist, so I didn’t go to art school [obviously], and I loved hearing Craig, Lisa and Kelly weigh in on the topic. After listening to their footage, it totally makes me want to go, too! :)

  • this was a great episode, & there are certainly points i agree with. i wish art college had prepared my friends & i more for life-after-art-college more than it did. it’s interesting to think, however, that the ones to do keep on making & creating after art college are the ones who figured out how to do it for themselves.

    saying that, i think there ought to be a little more help that what is already generally provided. most people i talk to who have graduated, or are about to, left uni feeling really lost, not just because they were no longer students with this great space & peers around them, but because they simply didn’t know how to start, how to transfer school to real life.

    i suppose that it’s just another challenge though. i, for one, haven’t managed to make money from my art since leaving uni, but i’m trying to find my own way of doing my own thing. i guess art is manifesting itself for me as still a hobby of sorts, but an all-consuming one in the best kind of ways: when i’m not at work, all i really think about is art & illustration, i live with two fellow illustrators, i network & make friends online, i’m planning to open a shop, & i’m constantly planning & making & drawing (as much as my working hours will allow!). & in that sense, art for me is just 100% fun. there’s no pressure of paying the rent from it (i’m lucky to have a job in an arts centre that takes care of that), in fact the only pressure i really have is simply to better myself for myself. i don’t know where i’ll be art-wise in the future, but for now it’s just the fun side of life, where my surroundings, free time & friends all reflect on a subject that i love.

    okay, long comment over. i think i partially wrote that for myself so i’d realise how lucky i am!

  • I think art college is a great place—even if it is only for the experience of going to college and meeting new people and learning about new ideas (and old ideas!). I graduated almost 12 years ago and I am very proud of my time at college.

    I went into production/printing after I graduated to become more comfortable with that side of design…then I lingered there, and lingered some more. I can’t say I regret being in production for so long, I’m very good at it and I am learning almost constantly.

    So I am an artist that went to art college with a day job that is not very “artistic” but I freelance and blog and create art for myself and I am happy with that equation. I do get asked about why go to art college when so many others in my field did not, and I used to take offense (like what am I some kind of super under achiever to them?) but I don’t get offended anymore. I just smile.

  • thanks kelly! i totally miss the community that i had at school and the critiques too. although they could be tough and sometimes a little crushing (if i’m totally honest!), but it was so helpful and pushed me to become a better artist.

  • this episode has been one of my favorites so far. It is so true that art school does not teach all the skills to becoming a “successful” artist once you leave. I was very lucky that the Industrial Design program that I went through (at CCAD) did a fairly decent job of teaching us how to market ourselves.

    If you are still in school or out and trying to figure it all out I would highly recommend spending some serious time in your local library. I checked out so many books on writing resume’s and proposals, on designing business cards and making yourself a brand. I read lots of small business books to learn the legal side of things. It helped tremendously!

  • I love this series and the work of these artists! I was recently asked about my art school experience and I realized that I learned, most importantly, not to be incomplete, that I must back up my work, not in a business-y way but as the maker of something I’d best be able to talk about it, claim it and stand by it. So then, I guess, at art school I learned to be more invested, productively neurotic.

  • I have degrees in English and fine arts. I think the underlying problem with many liberal arts degrees is that the content is taught, but there’s little translation of what to do with it if you venture outside the world of academia. I think writers, artists, designers, etc. would be well served if they minored in marketing or business management, especially if they want to make their living using their degree.

  • Great episode…I went to art school many years ago and I guess I was a little shocked at what I was not prepared for. Their advice was: you’ve got your portfolio…now go. Well like many artist it didn’t go very far and I felt really bad about it. I think I just got stuck in just surviving. But you know what, went back to school and got a certificate in design and everything is different now. I’m actually getting a bit of work and enjoying myself. The classes are a bit addicting and I can finally make sense of all the business aspects. Now if I could just get rid of my day job…

  • Nicole, you are so right. After going to grad school in English lit, I realized I had no idea what job this could translate to (other than teaching in University).

    The resounding chorus from anyone who attended (liberal) arts school? We have a hard time figuring out where, and what positions to apply to. For myself, I knew my skills, my strengths and weaknesses, but didn’t know what I was qualified for.

    Also, I don’t think I realized how much work it is to apply to jobs–in college, you hand in assignments, sign up for courses, get graded, and that’s that. I absolutely loved university, but it provides you with direction almost every step of the way. I got kicked in the pants, in a good way, in applying for jobs.

    Fun episode and comments!

  • this is truly a real helpful/enlightening episode erin! First off, yes I went to what I’d like to call an “art school”, but I’m not going to rather I’d say its an “art department” at the university of las vegas, nevada. I recently just got my BFA (last summer) & struggling big time as far as money & jobs…but a couple things, I like how Kelly stated the fact of school giving you the tools that I needed to make my work stronger & its really up to me to navigate with just that. I think thats really important, and UNLV did a good job in handing that to us. I like how Lisa mentioned community, I really wish that my school had a sense of community that any art school or (department :) should have. Not a lot of people get to stay in contact with their peers from school, and its very important that you do. Because those people are doing the same very thing that you are doing when attending art school. I didn’t get a feel of community with people during the time of my undergrad, there was a lot of tension, and distant between multiple people..i thought, which really makes me sad. But may be at grad school i will and be able to connect with those…its always important to have a strong connection with people that are doing the same thing that you are doing…(interest…etc

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