For many people, traditional college and university isn’t an exciting prospect. Those with a keen interest in following a creative career often consider going to art school instead. But is that really a smart choice? Do you have what it takes to become an artist? And even if you’re incredibly talented, will you actually enjoy going to art school? For some, art school isn’t “real” education. For others, it is the dream education type. If you’re not sure which one it is for you, understanding the pros and cons of art school is a good start.
Going to art school wasn’t always an option for everyone. For a long time, it was unheard of to actually “study” art. That changed in 1563 when the very first true academy for learning art was opened. It was called the Accademia del Disegno, which translates to the “Academy of Design” in English. The art academy was in Florence and was headed up by the Grade Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and Michelangelo. In the 1560s, the uptake of art as a career was slow. For the thinkers and creative types, art groups started as a social gathering where art purveyors would gather and share ideas. Today, art as a career choice is on the rise, with several art schools and colleges being considered so prestigious that they are “hard” to get into. Studying art is not uncommon but a difficult choice to make for many people. Now that you have a little bit of the history of art schools in mind, let’s consider the pros and cons of going to a modern-day art school.
Pros of Going to Art School
Below is a closer look at the pros of going to art school instead of a traditional college or university.
Recognized artists make a lot of money
Most people are aware that famous works of art can cost millions of dollars, with lesser-known artists making anything from several hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to the Design Museum, some of the world’s most highly paid living artists make millions of dollars each year. Some of these artists include:
- Damien Hirst – this painter and sculptor has a net worth of over $1 billion.
- Jasper Johns – this painter has a worth of around $300 million.
- David Chloe – this graffiti artist and muralist is worth approximately $200 million.
These are just a few of the top paid artists alive today. If you go to art school, perhaps you can learn the skills required to create art that impacts society and brings in decent money.
Lecturers and professors will help you develop a thick skin
Going to art school will not be a walk in the park. Art students have to face harsh criticism from lecturers and professors under the watchful eye of other students. Some art students cannot handle the pressure and drop out, while others thrive in the competitive environment and use the experience to develop a thick skin for their future career.
According to Whatuni.com, Glasgow School of Art has a 2.1% dropout rate, while the Plymouth College of Art has a 12.5% dropout rate. Not everyone will like your art in the future, and by going to art school, you will learn how to handle harsh comments and criticisms and use them to your advantage instead of letting them hinder you or upset you.
You will meet and network with other artists
Many artists going to regular colleges and universities feel like they haven’t met their “tribe.” It’s worth mentioning that art schools are full of artists, and of course, meeting other artists may position you in your future career ahead of time. Undoubtedly, some of the students you meet in art school will go on to make waves in their chosen field of art, and if you’re there with them, cheering them on, they will do the same for you. It’s not just about support but also about networking with people who may help you get ahead. Sometimes it is about who you know.
Art school students have access to equipment and supplies
As an art student, you can access school premises, equipment, and supplies that you otherwise may not be able to afford or get access to. Having access to art equipment and supplies means you can hone your skills and develop truly eye-catching art. If you don’t go to art school, you might have to do without this amazing opportunity.
Art school builds on your existing talents
As an aspiring artist, you might have raw talent that needs a bit of direction. With professional artists, lecturers, and professors at your disposal, you can receive guidance and advice for honing your skills and ensuring that your art develops in the right direction. Artists who don’t receive further instruction or guidance often let their art and creativity fall away. Going to art school can keep your talent alive and enhance it with each passing year.
Art schools provide artists with exposure opportunities
Art schools give students the full experience by providing them with shows and exhibitions to display their works. Often, these shows are attended by industry leaders and potential buyers. This doesn’t just teach students how to host an art show (which it does). It also provides students with the opportunity to be discovered by art buyers, galleries, and other institutions that may be interested in buying art. Even if students only receive feedback and interest in their art, it’s a good boost towards a successful future as an artist. This is something that you won’t be able to get from a non-art-focused university or college.
Cons of Going to Art School
Below is a closer look at the cons of going to art school instead of a traditional college or university.
The best art schools are difficult to get into
If you want to go to one of the best art schools, you may have difficulty getting in. Having your application rejected can become quite disheartening. The top art schools as listed by Artsy and that may prove difficult to get into include:
- Yale University School of Art
The statistics show a 6% acceptance rate for students applying for a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design, Painting/Printing, Sculpture, or Photography.
- Rugters University
Statistics from Petersons shows us that the Rugters University has a 21% acceptance rate of applications to study towards a Doctoral or Master’s Degree in the Music, Theater, or Visual Arts Departments.
- California Institute of the Arts
According to the statistics, California Institute of the Arts has an acceptance rate of 25% for studying towards Majors and Degrees in visual and performing arts, acting, fine arts, graphic design, painting, and photography.
Not all artists can make a career of their art
No matter how talented you are or how novel, unique or beautiful your art is, the sad truth is that some artists simply never make it. The “struggling artist” is a stereotype for a reason. In fact, many artists have to rely on income from other work, savings, or family to support their practice as only a small minority actually earns a living wage with their art. According to The Art Newspaper, artists don’t “equate success with earning money.” If financial security is your goal, or if you already have dependents who rely on you to bring home a stable income, going to art school may not be the smartest choice. Instead, you might want to consider seeking out an education in a future-oriented field that offers many high-paying job prospects, while keeping art as a hobby.
Rejection may take its toll on you
At art school, lecturers and other students will have the freedom to critique your work and make comments. If your form of art or your skills evoke unpleasant or unkind commentary, you may find that it takes its toll on you. When you go to art school, you open yourself up to being hurt by other people.
Going to art school can be expensive and time-consuming
Going to art school can be expensive. In fact, the top art schools in America are more expensive than regular universities and colleges. According to Campus Explorer, the most expensive art schools in the US ask for the following fees:
- Art Center College of Design: $39,672 per year
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago: $38,965 per year
- Rhode Island School of Design: $35,991 per year
- Maryland Institute College of Art: $32,712 per year
- School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: $33,319 per year
Some of the cheapest art schools can also be ill-affordable to those who don’t have savings or steady income. For instance, Suny College at Purchase costs $4,970, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design costs $16,058, and Bellevue University costs $13,600. To cover costs, many art school students have to take out hefty student loans or work while studying.
Art school also has a reputation for being time-consuming. Students have to attend lectures as well as complete practical art projects and assignments. Many of the assignments take a lot of planning and many hours of hands-on input.
People may not understand your art
If you have a unique creativity style or artistic skill, you may go your entire art school career feeling misunderstood because you don’t fit in with the type and styles of art that other students are pursuing. Being different from other students can make you feel left out and disconnected. Some students leave the art school program feeling unfulfilled or seek a career in a completely unrelated field.
You may be judged as “lazy” or not wanting a real job
More academically-minded people often say that art is not a real career and that art school is not a proper education. This doesn’t make it true, but it can leave people who study art feeling like they have failed or are less than. Many people may hear that you are at art school and judge you as lazy or trying to take the easy way out. It may not be true, but having these types of judgments cast on you can negatively impact your happiness.
You might not actually enjoy being an artist
Presumably, if you’re considering going to art school, it’s because you want to eventually become an artist. Many people are worried about getting stuck in the proverbial 9-to-5 rut, and having to spend their life at a boring desk job. Compared to this, a career as an artist can seem glamorous and exciting. But the realities of being a full-time artist may not be quite what you imagine. While you may not have a boss ‘forcing’ you to come to work on time and put in your hours, that doesn’t mean you can slack off for most of the day and only create art when you feel inspired.
To make a living, you may have to work on commission sometimes, and clients can be just as difficult and annoying as a manager. Alternatively, you may have to supplement your income with grants, but those aren’t handed out to anybody who comes knocking, either. You’ll have to do a lot of legwork when it comes to finding and applying for grants, and there’s never a guarantee you’ll get them. Either way, you’ll probably have deadlines, just like you would in any other field. And producing an inspired piece of art when you’re under pressure isn’t exactly easy. So if you’re considering going to art school, be sure to think long and hard about whether a full-time art career is what will make you happy in the long run or if you might not be better off with a more stable career path that provides you with enough free time to create art on the side.