I might be biased, but being an Art major is pretty awesome. It isn’t easy by any means, but I get to do what I love almost every day—and our department isn’t half bad, either. It’s equipped with studios and state-of-the-art equipment that are unique to Arcadia. Most majors are generally similar from college to college, but art programs always vary, which means that Arcadia’s art department is one of a kind! It does not have the same studios, equipment, and resources as any other art departments at other schools. What I’ve noticed most of all, though, is that the art department isn’t only special because of what it has to offer, but because of the people within it.
Students work hard, no matter their major. But I’ve noticed that Art majors are especially dedicated to their craft. There’s a care and concern for the work that is personal, and a willingness to exceed expectations just for the sake of wanting to do more art. For example, studio time. I once had an art professor tell me, “If you ever feel bored, go to the studio. If you need to be bored, be bored there.” There’s a general rule in studio art classes that students should spend as much time in the studio out of class as they do in class. It’s a technical expectation, and it can be time-consuming, but we do it willingly because we love it. Quite frankly, it’s often how we like to spend our time. Other Art majors will probably agree with me when I say that if I could spend all day in the studio and ignore human necessities like food and water, I would… and have (even at the expense of basic needs on occasion, which I do not recommend).
We Art majors make ourselves at home in our workspace, but not just on an individual basis. I noticed that in every studio art class I’ve taken, students who began as complete strangers end the class with a strong bond and a really fun dynamic—which often includes the professor, I might add. I always miss that when the semester is over. I’ve mentioned this before in previous blog posts: Art is unique because it’s very personal to the artist, and because of that, students gradually learn how to be vulnerable within a class setting. Even though each person may be working on an individual project, they learn to not only work alongside each other, but with each other–asking for opinions on their progress, offering a helping hand when things go awry, and offering words of encouragement when someone has a bad day.
Just recently I learned how to mix plaster in my Ceramics class. The technique is pretty specific, and timing is crucial because plaster starts to harden quickly if it sits for even a few seconds too long. I happened to be having a really bad day, and it took me forever to get it right. I wasted a few batches of plaster before I finally succeeded, which I felt awful about. But through the process I knew I could turn to the other people in my class when I had questions, and every time I did, they helped me out, no questions asked. When I was visibly struggling, they offered to bring me tools and asked if there was anything they could do to help further. One of my classmates even cleaned some of my supplies for me! I was a bit frustrated with myself the whole time, but knowing I had a solid support system made me feel a lot less overwhelmed than I would have been if I was going at it alone.
In art classes, we learn to get really comfortable with one another even in an academic environment, especially when critiquing another person’s work. Critiquing is a crucial element to being an Art major, even taking the place of a final exam sometimes. Every Art major has to do it. The critiquing process can be a little unnerving at first. It takes some getting used to, but having open, honest dialogues about the artwork we make in class helps bring us together and make us more comfortable.
If you’ve ever toured the buildings in the art department, you probably heard the phrase “process over perfection.” In essence, it means that the Art Department cares more about whether students are learning and developing as artists rather than how much art they complete. To me, it sums up the Art major experience at Arcadia. We are here to grow as artists, and we go through that process as a community, not by ourselves. That’s not something you can guarantee everywhere, but here I’d say it’s worth taking your chances.