Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Go to an Art College?

By Michelle Kemp
Assistant Director of Admissions, Otis College of Art and Design

These days, countless articles and essays of late have challenged the higher education, claiming it is an antiquated system offering meaningless degrees, inapplicable skills, and burdening its students with an overwhelming amount of debt. They remind us that wildly successful individuals like Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and Bill Gates either never went to college or were college drop outs.

With traditional forms of higher education under attack, it can often be that much more difficult to see the value of an art degree; after all, everyone is familiar with the example of the starving artist. So why go to Art College? The answer to this question is a surprisingly simple one.

For Nick Hayes, attending Art School was about pursing his passion. After spending six years in the army, getting married, and having a child, Nick returned to school at the age of thirty to get his Bachelors of Fine Arts in Toy Design. Nick has now landed his dream job as a Game Designer at Spinmaster, designing the types of games that he played with as child.

Nick’s narrative is an extraordinary one but it is not altogether uncommon. Every year students enroll in Art College because they got a degree in business but could never stop drawing in the margins of their memos—because they were the weird kid in high school who stayed up all night finishing an art projects because they wanted to—because, at their core, they are artists. Some may secretly wonder if they will ever make a decent living, some may not even care, but every year, students graduate Art School’s across the United States and find the jobs that they had always hoped for or maybe ones that they never even knew were possible.

Part of the reason for this is the incredible talent of an art student, part of it is the training that they receive at an Art College, and part of it has to do with sheer demand for artists and designers. The landscape of the US economy is changing and creativity is becoming a serious business. In 2010, the Creative Economy was the second largest business sector in Southern California, generating a market impact of over $201 billion. Between 2009 and 2014, Creative Economy jobs are projected to grow 6.7% faster than jobs in other sectors. Of the students who graduate each year from Art Schools, 80% of them are employed in positions related to their majors, 90% of them find jobs within a year after graduating; impressive statistics to be sure, especially as the US unemployment rate steadily climbs higher.

So when you are prompted to answer “why go to college,” think about who you are. Think about where you are in life and what you want out of it. Think about the people who are asking you these questions—the journalist with a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing, the CEO with a MBA—think about what it must have taken for them to achieve their goals because then you will have your answer. It’s not just about the money or the experience or the piece of paper: it’s about making your dreams come true.

Michelle lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture + New Genres from Otis College of Art and Design.

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