Years ago, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Guelph, ON. (Let’s not focus on how long ago that was. Seriously, it feels like a lifetime ago.)
Since then, I have come across many creatives who have wished they had attended some higher level fine arts education. But let me let you in on a little secret… in my experience, art school was not everything it was cracked up to be. Art school contributed very little to my journey as an artist.
Don’t get me wrong. I felt very privileged to be able to spend my years in university drawing and learning art history. But as far as a viable career path, it gave me very little understanding of how to be an actual practicing artist.
The most valuable lesson I gained from my art education was how to problem solve. This particular skill I still use daily and am grateful for having learnt it.
For anyone considering higher education in fine arts, let me give you some directional advice. The world needs more artists! Instead of a degree in fine arts, creatives should choose a different type of education that can be applied to an arts business.
It is a myth to believe that technical training and practice is over when you graduate.
Just because you graduate from art school doesn’t mean you have made it as an artist. Graduation is merely the beginning of you discovering your own creative voice apart from your teacher’s assignments and inspirations.
In a fine arts degree, a lot of time is spent in the creative process gaining technical skills. Valuable, true, but these skills can be pursued and developed easily on your own time, especially with all the internet has to offer. It is better to figure out your own creative process, than to copy someone else’s.
A practicing artists need just to practice their craft. They don’t need to pay to learn the technical side of creating. Creatives with natural technical abilities lack the business side of things and should work on gaining skills to improve this weakness.
I believe a better path in choosing education would be to obtain a business degree that can teach creatives the skills required to run a successful business. Creatives need to make friends with math as this is how they are going to be able to run an art business.
Marie Forleo has a fantastic business online program that is designed specifically for creatives called B-School. Being a graduate from this particular program, I can highly recommend its content.
Another alternative degree would be a web design or marketing degree. Both web design and marketing are needed foundations for any viable small business. Or what about entrepreneurial studies?
If your heart is still pulled towards a creative education, look for courses that have networking potential. For instances, often animation studios hire directly from animation courses.
If you are anything like me and you cannot decide on a specific direction because you like multiple creative processes, at the very minimum, choose a program that is specific like interior design or graphic design. Pick one! This way you can turn your education into valuable experience. Down the road, you can use that experience to help you choose a different creative career path if you desire.
A fine arts degree is too general and will not get you the experience you need to build a practicing art career. A fine arts degree is geared for art historians or museum workers which would be quite inspiring. But a bachelor’s degree is not enough to get you a job at museums or galleries. These positions require a master’s degree and a bit of luck. Be sure you are willing to go the distance.
Since the day I graduated, I have been teaching myself all the things I had wished I had gained from my art education like design principles and colour theory. I don’t think I will ever stop learning about art as this naturally motivates me. But not a day goes by, that I wished I had spent my education money on a more practical program that could have helped me build a business.