Reactor

Why Did You Go to Art School?

by Jillian Steinhauer on September 18, 2013

An art school PSA created ad agency Team Detroit for the College of Creative Studies (via neatorama.com)

An art school PSA created ad agency Team Detroit for the College of Creative Studies (via neatorama.com)

With college tuition costs in the US rising faster than inflation, the decision to go to art school is increasingly fraught. How do you know if the ends will justify the means? Is it worth it only if you have a scholarship? Why go to art school?

That last question is the basis for a tumblelog created by artist Liz Flyntz and called, appropriately, Why Did You Go to Art School? The blog features people answering that question, whether they went to art school as an undergrad or grad, or even in high school. There aren’t too many entries yet, but it’s telling that common themes and ideas emerge nonetheless, across different cities and states and even a few countries.

One of the strongest is that art school offers many people the promise of belonging, a chance to find like-minded peers:

Alexis Clements – “part of why I went to school to study in the arts as an undergrad was that I was trying to find a place where I fit in better (does that ever work?) and also where I could explore the world in a way that wasn’t scientific or entirely didactic.”

Alma Alloro – “The adults around me really liked everything I was drawing or making, however the other kids didn’t really get it, or didn’t really get me.”

Alex Young – “…and that was pretty much it in terms of going from being a weird kid who drew a lot and played bass to thinking of art as something took things as they are and molded them into something better, more perverse, intellectually deviant, less ‘pragmatic’ in the mundane business sense, etc.”

Juan Guillermo Caicedo Diaz del Castillo – “to me drawing and painting,- I called drawing then, it became Art in my mind latter on- was the one way I could get attention and somehow connect with people in a way I never knew existed.”

Other people talk about how making art is simply ingrained them and impossible not to do:

Angelica Piedrahita – “I am an artist cuz HOLY CHRIST I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO ANYTHING ELSE !!!”

Laura Oster – “I am completely addicted to making things. A few times I tried to take another direction but I didn’t feel whole.”

Carrie Kaser – “I went to art school because I always liked making things as a kid and going to an art school seemed like a good way to keep making things a part of my adult life.”

And then, of course, there are those who went for practical reasons, like bad grades (which didn’t matter to the art school) or free tuition (Cooper Union, about which Kandis Williams says, “you get what you pay for” — ouch).

I suppose these fit a lot of the stereotypes we have of why people attend art school, but with so many different answers laid out back-to-back, the blog feels refreshingly honest and diverse. There’s a lot of talk these days about the professionalization of art and what that means, but if we’re going to try to understand the phenomenon, hearing from the people who’ve participated is a good place to start.

  • Subscribe to the Hyperallergic email newsletter!

Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.
  • salomeforever

    Pardon me if it’s right in front of my face, but how do you submit to this? “It’s better than the navy or jail” is my favorite, BTW.

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      Good question! Liz says you can send her an email, liz.flyntz@gmail.com, with your answer and a URL to your website. You can also respond via Tumblr “fan mail,” by clicking on the little envelope in the upper corner of the site.

Previous post:

Next post: