How to choose an Art School? Why to go to an Art School? Here a few reflections to take in consideration before choosing an Art School.
Choosing where to study is a challenge by itself, deciding going to an Art School makes it even more peculiar. It does not matter if your pursuing a career in painting, sculpting, photography, film, multiverse, or whatever, here are some thoughts to consider before choosing an Art School.
First of all, why to go to an Art School? Who on Earth studies Art?
Let’s start with a weird statement. You should not go to an Art School to do art. What? Yes. I mean, you will do art and you should get good at it. But the final purpose should not be creating an enormous amount of art for a portfolio. If you want to get better at a specific kind of technique, take a course on that and keep doing it. Art is not about perfect technique it goes beyond technique, so you do not go to an art school to learn how to design or whatever. You should choose going to an Art School because of the mindset and creative competences you will achieve there.
Although it was already in my mind, I decided to pursue a postgraduate degree in an art school after reading “Playing to the Gallery” by Grayson Perry. Beyond being a very interesting, funny and easy book to understand contemporary art, it made me understood that art school is the worst experience ever, but you should do it. Again, what? Yes. It is a path towards self-discovery through frustration –or should it be the opposite? A path towards frustration through self-discovery? Also, it is also a path where at the end you will be questioning what will you do next. You will have a bunch of art pieces that people will love but business will not know how that helps them to hire you. But then again, it is the mindset, creativity and the skills to challenge the world what will become your strength. So, overall, although it sounds basic and obvious, you do not go to an art school to do art but to become an artist, which in other words is to find in every aspect of your life and world an ars vivendi.
With this being said, here are 5 suggestions to consider before choosing an Art School. And please, do not take me as guru on the topic; I failed following my own rules.
1. Take a look at their cafeteria
Art and overall movements are done in cafes. Go to Paris and walk around Montmartre, Saint Germain and Montparnasse. What will you see? Tourist, a lot of them, but also a lot of cafes where artists went to have a drink and to talk, discuss and built art. Fashion in the seventies will now exist with out Café de Flore. From the impressionists and all the way to Picasso and Modigliani, their art and cafes are inseparable.
So judge the school from their cafeterias and open networking spaces. There is where your art will be done.
2. Technique classes and the pursue beyond technique
Be sure that school will offer you to become a master of technique, especially if you are going to an undergrad or a foundation course. However, be sure it does not stay there. Technique is great but art goes beyond technique. Artists today are not defined by their expertise of technique but how they go beyond it. So be sure they embrace new materials, topics, etc etc etc.
About important foundations, something very important is to be sure you will have proper and deep understanding of History of Art. Learning by heart years and names is not the important part. Yet a profound understanding of how art has advanced until now and how it is seen, appreciated, bought, and all is fundamental. And even more important, creation starts from inspiration. Maybe at the beginning is closer to copying, but this strong background will give you a strong cultural knowledge and visual expertise to create for you and others. You want to understand where and how your work stands, and even more important do not consider yourself a genius if you have no idea of what is out there.
3. What happens next?
This point is full of sub-points.
So, where are the final exhibitions done? Are there done in a room in the school? Choose a different school then. As more public and open it is, the merrier.
Do they have an alumni department? What do they do? Events? Do they support alumni work through space, sponsorships or more? Does this department have hubs around the world? If not, choose a different school then.
Do they have high value and quality postgraduate programs and research? No, then choose a different school then.
I know we are not anymore in the middle ages where universities are beyond a business and worker creators. Still art schools (or maybe this should apply to all universities and colleges) should be platforms and tools. If you can not use them to grow, choose a different school then.
4. Studio space and time
Artists fight for studio spaces. Residences with proper studios are a huge thing in the art world. Classes are important, teachers are as well, but infrastructure is crucial!
You need to create and for that you need space. In short, be sure beyond classrooms you have a studio space for yourself and that you have enough proper studio times. Let me highlight this, a studio space FOR YOURSELF and enough time to create. Take a look at the German movie 'Never Look Away' (its original title is Werk ohne Autor, which would be translated 'Work Without Author'). Beyond enjoying Max Richter's music, notice the experience and environment portrayed of the art school in East Berlin, that is a dramatised version of what you should be looking for.
5. Who has studied there and how they collaborate as an alumni
Art schools are made by their alumni. Of course, all universities depend and promote the huge names that have crossed their hallways and classrooms. But if you were going to choose any other field, you should focus maybe first on the research that school is doing, enterprises that hire and collaborate with the university, among other topics. Alumni is in extreme important for art schools because the real value is how they create art through and with the university. Great art schools, all the very well known ones, have their reputation built on how an art movement was created by a generation of their students. But most importantly, on how this famous former students give back to the school through becoming teachers, opening their ateliers to students, and so on. Let's be clear, it is not about former students being teachers there, it is about big names and careers building together there. So check the list of the alumni and see how they collaborate back with the school. If there is no interaction, something is wrong for sure.
So, enjoy browsing and choosing, and most importantly enjoy art school. I did.