Is Art School Worth It?


Langley Hayman

Local Artist Jenna Louise Rogan’s art displayed at the Urban Arts Gallery in Salt Lake City, Utah on Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Langley Hayman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Megan Fisher, Arts Writer


Lawyers go to law school. Doctors go to medical school. Artists go to art school. While there are countless more avenues that one could take to become an artist than a brain surgeon, art school provides an aspirant with worthwhile guidance and experience.

What’s the Deal With Art School?

The myth of the self-taught artist, kissed by the muses and suffering away in a garret, is persistent, romantic and patently untrue. Creativity needs to be harnessed through hard work and passion. Art school chips away at and refines the artist’s abilities, like a rock being pressured into a diamond.

Eric Oliver, a graduate of the University of Utah with a BFA in graphic design and an adjunct professor of digital media at Utah Valley University, explained the importance of art school

“People say ‘Oh, you can be self-taught on YouTube’ — and the problem with that is that YouTube does not offer feedback when you’re done doing something — art school does,” Oliver said. “It teaches you how to take hard feedback. It teaches you skills, how to refine your work and to ask questions about your work. It teaches you to constantly improve.”

At its platonic ideal, art school fosters a community. As a film and media arts major, I remember how walking into my first film class was an important, exciting experience. For the first time in my life, I met people who loved movies as much as I did. People who talked about Sergei Eisenstein and Akira Kurosawa. People who didn’t look at me as if I had two heads when I used the term “MacGuffin” when talking about a thriller. At art school, a student finds others with similar goals and mentors who can help them turn pie-in-the-sky dreams into reality.

Local Artist Vivian Arthur’s art displayed at the Urban Arts Gallery in Salt Lake City, Utah on Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Langley Hayman | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Langley Hayman)

Community is the Most Important Part of Art School

The creative atmosphere that arises when artists discuss their work and bounce ideas off each other helps to instruct and spark inspiration. Art is about connection and having a conversation with the audience. The immediate feedback of other students and professors can help artists learn how to do that.

Lien Fan Shen, an assistant professor in the Film and Media Arts Department, described her time at the School of Visual Arts when she worked toward an MFA.

“During those years, I met so many talented artists — they’re so creative and every time they talked about their ideas it would give me so much inspiration,” Shen said. “So, in a way, I feel the sort of community was the most beneficial thing to me.”

Art schools provide opportunities to develop working relationships with like-minded artists. Furthermore, these relationships can be helpful in fostering future freelance artwork.

Through art school, one’s artistic sensibilities are broadened. Film students are introduced to different cinematic styles and modes. Visual artists learn how to use acrylics, oils, 3D animation software, sculpting clay and other materials they may not have touched otherwise. Dancers take classes in ballet, tap, modern and hip-hop. The students are pushed out of their comfort zones and learn a great deal, and hopefully find something they love.

V. Kim Martinez, professor of painting and drawing in the Department of Art and Art History at the U and graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, described art school as a time of exploration.

“You could say, ‘I want to make a painting. I want to make it out of melted aluminum,'” Martinez said. “That’s going to do something very different from acrylic paint … and the aluminum’s never going to do what a computer monitor can do. Vice versa. So you have to become sensitive to materials and understand, if I use this material and I’m trying to say this, then what material is going to answer my question better?”

Art school helps artists become familiar with all of the different ways they can express themselves. It pulls them deeper into their art, strengthening their knowledge of the chosen discipline.

So, is art school worth it? I believe so. Art is worth it. Finding others with the same interests and goals as yourself is worth it. Education is worth it, not just in an academic sense, but for learning from those around you. Art school is too nauseatingly expensive for just an appreciator, but those lucky enough to get into the right program, with the right professors and an understanding of the surprisingly hard work ahead of them, can find a place to improve doing what they love and forge a singular identity.


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