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Hipstercrite: Is Artsy Fartsy School A Necessity?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is Artsy Fartsy School A Necessity?


This is a post I've been wanting to write for a very long time, but kept putting it off since I felt that my collegiate experiences skewed my thoughts on the subject. However, after reading an interesting article in Hufffingtonpost about college students/grads and their stories of student debt, and talking to dozens of friends about their own college experiences, I've decided to stop pussy-footing around the issue and write questions to myself and talk in the third person.

-----------------------------------------------

Is college a necessity?

Abso-fucking-lutely (to quote my friend's girlfriend's response after he proposed to her in front of The Bellagio last weekend).

There Mom....are you happy?

I said it!

COLLEGE IS NECESSARY!!!!

Buuuuuutttttt...


Is it necessary if you're going into the arts?

Maybe.

I only said "maybe", Ma!

Jeez! It's not like I said, "Art school is totally a waste of freakin' money!"

But what if it is?! You know?! What if it is a waste of money!?

Fine. Ok.

Quit pulling the Jewish guilt trip, will ya?

-------------------------------------------------

1.) So I want to go to artsy fartsy school. Is that good idea? Did you go to artsy fartsy school, Lauren?

I went to film school. Upon leaving film school and working in Hollywood, I was angry. Film school did not prepare me for the realities of the industry. Theory and critique is wonderful, but considering the chances of film students actually becoming filmmakers are low, knowing what unique camera angles Orson Welles used in Citizen Kane is most likely not going to help you understand when your agent is trying to figuratively or literally f*ck you or deal with your producer when he is high on blow and threatening to jump off the 8th floor of the Sunset Tower with the final cut of your movie in his hands.

Luckily, I was raised by in a low income, single parent household so my $50,000 a year tuition (stupid!) cost me about the same as community college. However, I often wonder if I would have benefited from taking business classes at the local community college more?

This was a common sentiment voiced by other friends who work in the arts industries. My friend, Chris, a TV writer/producer in Los Angeles who attended Gonzaga University and has $27,000 in college debt, said, "In terms of actual concrete skills necessary to do anything with my job - my degree didn't do anything there. On the other hand, things I learned through experiences at college made me better at research, organizing ideas, and writing. The first step that got me my first job and launched my career was an internship at a production company and because internships technically as a legal matter must only be given to an enrolled college student -- and even if the place that might hire you for an internship doesn't technically follow that rule -- being enrolled in college helps you to get that internship in the first place."

So that leads us to...

2.) So if they don't really teach you anything at artsy fartsy school, what is the point?

The big point about artsy fartsy school that I conveniently forget is that I got my foot in the Hollywood door through my internship. At internships you make connections. However, internships are often difficult to obtain unless you're enrolled in college. There is much debate on whether or not it is "illegal" to hire an intern that is not currently enrolled in school. I've always been told this. However, after some research, it's appears that is not the case. In some states like California, I believe if a student is not enrolled in school, then you will have to pay them for the internship. That could be where the confusion lies (please correct me if you know more on this). Regardless, this misnomer or the fact that employers like "hiring" interns who are going to school, puts the non-college student in a tough place.

3.) Is it worth spending $30,000, $50,000, $100,000 just for the internships/connections?

No, it's not.

I mean, if you have $50,000 to spare, then why the hell not?

4.) So then what do you recommend? What are you trying to tell me, Lauren!?!?

Move to a big city and network like there is no f'ing tomorrow.

5.) This girl is getting her master's degree in photography and owes $177,250 in debt and can't start her photography business because her school loans are $2,000. Why did she do that? Why, Lauren? WHY?


Yeah, I don't know why, but she looks miserable in this photo, doesn't she? Like she's being sentenced to death.

5.) No, seriously...what the hell are you trying to tell me?

I don't really know.

I guess what I'm trying to say is if you're parents are freakin' loaded and you really want to go to art/film school, then do it.

Or get a degree in something more practical and employable.

Hell, I'm going to tell my kid to go to vocational school.

But if you can't go to art school, don't sweat it.

It's 90% networking and 10% what you know. What you know you can learn from community college, night courses, online/books, or just getting out there and doing it.

*It's probably smart if you don't take advice from me.


What are your thoughts on arts school or college in general?

23 Comments:

At 10:36 AM, Blogger IT said...

I know nothing about any arts schools so I don't feel qualified to comment about them. That said, having much experience in hiring [and firing], I would place give a great deal of consideration to anyone who has completed their degree, with bonus points to those who worked while going to school. Most of my best co-workers were full time students with part-time jobs.

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger WILDasaMINK said...

I think school is a definite MUST...even art school.
While first of all you need to have some natural talent for what you're going to be "blowing" money on, you definitely gather useful knowledge and insights that had you not chosen the college path, you would not have.
I for one was always naturally able to draw, was always into fashion, always knew I wanted to be a fashion designer...but had I not gone to fashion school this thing called MY LIFE would not be happening as it is now. I can tell you thru fashion school I A.) learned how to sew, and make anything I set my eyes on in a magazine (why did I think i could enter design school not knowing how to sew? boy that was a tough first year finding that I sucked at even trying to stitch a straight line, forget the fact that I had never even threaded a sewing machine). And B.) I can draw like 100x better than I could before fashion illustration classes...but after school (which was a little bit useful in acquiring my internship and my current job)I can tell you what I learned ON THE JOB is even more valuable than what I learned at school. so yeah school is necessary to teach you the basics and hone your skills, but what you learn via networking and on the job is by far way more useful than anything you learn in artschool. With that being said, it's still very much a MUST.
(and 8 years out of school I'm still $32,000 in debt, but it was worth it).

 
At 10:57 AM, Blogger Vanessa said...

You know, I was a very indecisive college student. I transferred 4 times! Also, I was constantly changing my major - I went from English to history to art history, back to English and then sociology...I ended up getting my degree in sociology. Why? Because I felt like it was the best and most practical degree.

I talked myself out of art history, English, and an art minor by telling myself I could write and photograph and whatever else without that degree. But can I work in the social services without the proper education? Probably not. I was a classic case of TOO MANY DAMN DREAMS. Oh, I want to be a psychologist! I want to be head of my own non-profit organization! I want to photograph and write and travel and cook! And hey, I should probably write that folk album I've been thinking about doing for the last billion years...

But I'm rambling on your blog, so I will just say this - I still want to write and do something more creative, but I don't have as much time as I would like. Isn't that everyone's problem when it comes to being creative? That real life gets in the way of your passions?

I guess you make time if it's important enough. Sometimes I think if I would've just stuck with one of those more "artsy" majors, I would've landed a great internship and maybe done something more creative....there's still time, right? RIGHT?

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Adria said...

My parents spent roughly $200,000 on my undergrad degree, plus an extra $10,000 for my semester abroad at an acting conservatory in london, plus an extra $7,000 or so on acting classes after I graduated from college. I never did that math before, but they couldve bought me a house with that money. But they didn't, and I do not regret my BA in English, nor my acting training. I've been able to pursue writing on the side of an acting career because of the confidence I gathered in my many english classes. Not to mention that I have an "up" on all the "I want to just be a star" actors because I have read and understood most of shakespeare's writing. This doesn't make me a better actor but it makes me understand intricacies of writing, performance and life, which is invaluable. Things that teachers and professors have said to me over the past 6 years have stuck with me and I do really think they help me in auditions and in interactions with casting directors.

Also, the pure experience of socializing at a liberal arts college has afforded me the opportunity to grow as a person in a way that immediately pounding the pavement as an actor never would have.

Plus, I had sex on the football field.

 
At 12:12 PM, Blogger Benny said...

Everything you've said is gold. All I can add is this: If you were OK at something before art school, and art school teaches you that your way of doing it is wrong, take them with a grain of salt.
Your point about internships is extremely important and is often-overlooked. So many people go on saying, "I learned nothing in college! Everything I learned, I learned on the job! College is worthless!"
Then, eventually, I'll ask, "So... how did you get that job?" And, without realizing that they are contradicting themselves, they will say, "Oh, through my school's internship program."
So I'm glad you brought attention to that phenomenon.

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger One Blonde Girl said...

As an art teacher, I've always had a hard time encouraging students to go to art school. I mean, I went to a state school and ended up going to grad school with a ton of people who went to an artsy fartsy private school. Was their undergrad experience more beneficial and rewarding? Eh, maybe. But we all ended up in the same place any way, so does it matter? I do have less debt than them though, so...

In my wonderful experience (6 years worth) of post-high school schooling, you learn more from your peers than you ever would in a classroom (unfortunately). Maybe school isn't necessary if you have the right group of friends and connections to get you where you want to be, but as you mentioned, school is often vital for making those connections.

Regardless of what school one chooses, I definitely think higher education is necessary for the life experience and to help make you a more well-rounded individual. ($50,000 necessary? Maybe not.)

 
At 2:00 PM, Blogger Sophie Neutron said...

I went to art school twice.
First time - Fine arts. Painting, Sculpture blah blah blah. I learned to speak absolute...erm...nonsense while making other people think I was smarter than them/knew what I was talking about.
Second time - Product & Furniture design. I (finally) learned that art school doesn't teach you much at all. And tech drawing standards/CAD.
What art school does do, is, it surrounds you with creativity, which is great, and thats about it.
I know people that work, successfully, in creative industries (art, fashion, film/broadcast, graphics/multimedia, interior design, prod/industrial/furniture design) that don't have, relevant, formal training. And I know people that do have formal training that still work in retail or whatever jobs they had while studying.
So yeah, I agree. Art school probably is a waste of time...I wish I had of gone to business school!

 
At 8:26 PM, Blogger Comic Book Candy said...

The article you linked to depresses the shit out of me, man. I'm something like $45,000 in debt but it might as well be $100,000. It's just something I'll be paying off for a loooong time, so the actual number doesn't matter.

Was my education worth the price? No, with all honesty I can say it was not worth that much. Would it be if I got paid more? Maybe, but anyone who goes to art school thinking it will be a sound financial investment is really delusional. I went to art school because I couldn't see myself doing anything else for a living, it's and I wanted a higher education. So I did what I wanted. Worth it.

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger Big Mark 243 said...

After spending an evening formatting a screenplay for a friend, I don't know if going to a fancy school helps you more in the art industry than simply pushing your way through with a bad idea. I am sure there is a segment of artist for whom college worked out fine for.

But I don't think that it is worth the crushing debt to say you have an Art degree.

Can't speak to the usefuness of an art degree, but without a college experience, I don't think person would be ready to deal with the world at all.

 
At 5:31 AM, Blogger Emily said...

When I leave school I'm going to be £40,000 in debt and I sometimes think whether it's worth it BUT it really does help to get your foot in the door what with internships and stuff. I study Public Relations so it's more business than art, my true passion is writing but I think it would be pointless to study that because no-one can teach you how to become a good writer, you either are or you aren't.

Good post though!!

 
At 7:27 AM, Blogger Freelance Pallbearer said...

BFA: Major - Painting
Minor - Creative Writing

I depressed a lot of bright minds in class when I said things like,

"I came here to cement my poverty."

"If you look for me in ten years I'll probably be under your bar stool, asleep."

"I want to be a painting major so I'll never want to paint again."

I went to art school with the understanding that I would leave $30k in debt, have zero job opportunities within my field, be disillusioned with visual art, and be a part of a profession catered to a class of people I refuse to associate with. I just wanted to make art, and write.

What I wasn't expecting was the mindlessness of my peers; I forgot a large portion of the art community tokes up and forgets the world. I have no issue with pot as a recreation, a stimulant, but when it becomes an obsession, a lifestyle, things start to get hazy. I forgot the ego involved in art and had serious trouble with my painting instructors-- to the point of getting kicked out of my Senior thesis painting course. Also, I forgot how long four years was.

Was it worth it? I don't know, I can't take it back. Now I have a piece of paper in a trash bin somewhere that says that I did something with my youth. It was something. I've been writing about college a lot lately.

**draft draft draft**

It involves a lot of yelling.

I think the most important aspect of college was that I felt constantly alive. That only comes in pangs and flashes nowadays.

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Hipstercrite said...

@IT- I think that's an excellent point and one that still holds very true for today. Without a degree, any degree, it's tough to get that interview.

@Mink- That is an excellent argument and I have nothing to come back with. You are probably the only fashion designer I know and love reading your stories. Thanks for sharing!

@Vanessa- You sound very much like me. I've had to have a talk with myself and say, "if you want to be good at something, pick one thing..." If you really enjoy writing, then stick with that and let the other things come secondary.

@Adria- HA! I loved your comment!
It's so nice to hear stories of people happy with their degrees/training. Say if you're parents weren't able to afford your education, what do you think you would have done?

@Benny- When I worked in LA, it was easy for me to forget that the ONLY reason why I was there is because of college. It makes any argument I have against film school kind of void. It's just difficult because, seriously? Is the internship worth the years of debt?

@One Blonde Girl- Thank you for sharing your story. It is such a difficult question. In these times when people with degrees can't find work, the $50,000 or more price tag on a degree seems tough to swallow.

@Sophie- Product and furniture design sounds super interesting! I will admit, I often think about going back to school just to be in the creative atmosphere, but I wonder if that is only setting me back time and money...?

@Comic Book Candy- Isn't that article really interesting? Gosh, there is one girl on there who will owe $295,000 in loans! I can't even imagine. Granted she's going to medical school, but what will her monthly bills look like in the beginning?!?

@Mark- I half agree with you. For lots of people, the college experience is necessary. They go away from home the first time, etc. However, I know for me, when I got to LA, college taught me NOTHING about the realities of the world and especially LA (which film school kind of should). It kind of left me resentful.

@Emily- I think you sound like you're on the right track! :)

@Pallbearer- Very good sentiments... I live in Austin where there a lot of talented people who live a life of passivity. It's so sad to see so much talent go to waste.

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Hipstercrite said...

@IT- I think that's an excellent point and one that still holds very true for today. Without a degree, any degree, it's tough to get that interview.

@Mink- That is an excellent argument and I have nothing to come back with. You are probably the only fashion designer I know and love reading your stories. Thanks for sharing!

@Vanessa- You sound very much like me. I've had to have a talk with myself and say, "if you want to be good at something, pick one thing..." If you really enjoy writing, then stick with that and let the other things come secondary.

@Adria- HA! I loved your comment!
It's so nice to hear stories of people happy with their degrees/training. Say if you're parents weren't able to afford your education, what do you think you would have done?

@Benny- When I worked in LA, it was easy for me to forget that the ONLY reason why I was there is because of college. It makes any argument I have against film school kind of void. It's just difficult because, seriously? Is the internship worth the years of debt?

@One Blonde Girl- Thank you for sharing your story. It is such a difficult question. In these times when people with degrees can't find work, the $50,000 or more price tag on a degree seems tough to swallow.

@Sophie- Product and furniture design sounds super interesting! I will admit, I often think about going back to school just to be in the creative atmosphere, but I wonder if that is only setting me back time and money...?

@Comic Book Candy- Isn't that article really interesting? Gosh, there is one girl on there who will owe $295,000 in loans! I can't even imagine. Granted she's going to medical school, but what will her monthly bills look like in the beginning?!?

@Mark- I half agree with you. For lots of people, the college experience is necessary. They go away from home the first time, etc. However, I know for me, when I got to LA, college taught me NOTHING about the realities of the world and especially LA (which film school kind of should). It kind of left me resentful.

@Emily- I think you sound like you're on the right track! :)

@Pallbearer- Very good sentiments... I live in Austin where there a lot of talented people who live a life of passivity. It's so sad to see so much talent go to waste.

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger Hipstercrite said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12:13 PM, Blogger Vanessa said...

I do the same thing! I have to really, really convince myself to pick ONE THING when it comes to most aspects of my life. I guess it's not bad to want so much, but it can make you a hardcore meanderer like myself...

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger Christina In Wonderland said...

Honestly, even though I'm going to college, I don't think it's necessary for anything. I mean, I don't really think college teaches what it should. It's a big waste of time. Plus, most people who go just feel pressured into it anyway by their parents or other people, so it doesn't become your choice anymore.

 
At 11:41 AM, Blogger craig said...

I wish more people would talk about this because it is a very big gorilla in the room. Like the first part of your post, many will look at you like you have two heads if you even slightly question the modern incarnation of college.

I feel that too many young people are shoveled into college...any college... right out of high school, after having already lived a pretty sheltered life. They don't know what to do, so they pick something that sounds interesting and get in over their heads with debt, or wondering if they should have done something different. It doesn't help that many seem to have not been taught the basics of finance and just how much money that $177k in loans is. My god.

I'm actually a successful (relatively...100% of income for over 5 years) photographer who got a degree in computer science. I left the field to pursue a passion. I never took a class in photography and yet I've shot magazine covers and ad campaigns. I learned by doing, constantly, and working for other photographers.

I think the best thing I got out of college was how to learn. I was already pretty industrious by the time I got there. Computer science is not a degree you can get just by going to class or reading a couple of chapters in a book. You have to figure things out on your own just to pass. I feel this prepared me more than anything for the reality.

More business classes would've been helpful... but I'm constantly working on that too.

I also think its important to have a good, sane mentor in whatever you're doing. I was fortunate to meet a very generous and successful photographer who showed that you can be both an honest, honorable person and successful in the arts.

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger Kerri said...

well, i do think college is valuable, altho i'm not no longer employed in the field i got my degree in!! and most people i know, come to think of it, aren't either.

but at the age of 18-22 or whatever it is, it seems college is a great thing to do. i was so not ready to join the real world at that time. and college was a great buffer.

 
At 5:12 PM, Blogger Ruthie said...

Well, I refused to go to college for about 10 years, and then the world finally broke me. Going to work for 40 hours a week sucks compared to showing up for class, turning in papers, and sunny afternoons.

 
At 1:15 AM, Blogger girluntitled said...

after 2 years of art school, i sold out and became a dental hygienist.

do i feel like i'm not living up to my creative potential? sometimes.

do i miss living the 'starving artist' lifestyle? hells no.

but ooohhh the memories! THE MEMORIES!!

 
At 1:34 PM, Blogger Corte Inglesa said...

Jeez, i am just absolutely flabbergasted at how much tuition fees are in the US. When i went to Uni (although it was like ten years ago granted) In London it was a fixed rate of 1,500 quid per year whatever the subject. I worked at the same time I was studying and even then I struggled with money. how the hell do people over there afford it?

 
At 8:17 AM, Blogger Penny Lane said...

College has gotten so F'in expensive.

I am gettin a Journalism/Creative writing degree from a CUNY school known for business because I cannot afford to go to an actual school that would be more tailored to me needs.

Do we need college? Absolutely. Because there is always more to learn and connections to be made.

Are they taking advantage of us? Absolutely. Every chance they get.

It sucks!

I contemplate putting myself into loads of debt everyday to go to a school I want to be in.

I repeat: It sucks.

I am stuck at home and in a business focused school. Great.

Step One... continue on my search for an apartment.


Peace and Love, ( and luck)
D

p.s anyone know of an apartment in Manhattan?

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Maria said...

I can't really comment on art schools, either...but I have a number of thoughts swirling around my head as a mother of an artsy fartsy 12 year old...let me first say I agree with the commenter who mentioned...we're all at the same point anyway, right?

I think college is seriously skewered in the country. What is termed as "education" is skewered. When experience and enthusiasm doesn't count, but grades do? When getting good grades means knowing the right answers? When those hiring hire based on college stats? Give me a break.

It all comes down to what we want in life? Is it to have money? Keep up with Joneses and retire blissfully? That paradigm is fast changing. People are recognizing that life matters NOW and QUALITY is more important than QUANTITY. Why bust your buns trying to reach the illusive when you can chase your passions and interests and still make ends meet right NOW?

Apprenticeships, mentoring, on the job training, vocational schooling, travel experience, community college...all these are viable options and it's time those that are hiring start thinking outside the college box.

As for those that said their world was widened and the did things that opened their mind in college...hooray! That happens other places beyond college too, tho...and perhaps less expensively.

This is not as coherent as I would like...but you get the picture. We are trained in this society to think college is end all be all and means to an end. It all depends on what you want that "end" to look like. My dreams, goals, desires as far as my lifes work is concerned has change about three times between ages 18-30. And we are forcing kids to make decisions that effect their whole lives, then pay through the nose for it, and then change their minds? It's a paradigm that is NOT working. THINK OUTSIDE THE COLLEGE BOX!!

~Maria

 

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