Sometimes life throws you a curveball. Baseball metaphors aside, they’re not always easy to handle. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go to the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Living in Vancouver gets more expensive each year, so I came up with an alternative: I’d move to Courtenay and take the ECU external general visual arts degree at North Island College. In January, I bit the bullet and applied. I was nervous, naturally, that I wouldn’t get in. After weeks of waiting and wringing my hands, the letter finally came. Needless to say, I felt like all the pieces of my future as a professional artist were falling into place. I could finally become an artist, as if I was somehow discounting myself as one already.
Side note: I’m not sure at what point I decided that one degree wasn’t enough, or at what point I felt like I could only succeed as a professional artist with a BFA instead of the professional training I already had, but at some point it became the only answer. I fell under the myth that to be successful, I had to have a BFA. I had to go to an “art school”.
I got excited, and begun to plan my future, what I was sure would be more incredible than any other venture I had taken on thus far. I was going to move up island, and “be an artist”. I had a few hiccups in being able to view course selection at my chosen campus, and when I finally got it to work, my heart broke. Nothing that truly applied to me was being offered. This left me a few choices.
1 Go to North Island College anyway. Take what I can, do a couple of courses online, and commute to Granville Island to take drawing and painting studios next year. There are courses available that I could take, including art history, print media and cultural studies. While I may not end up with a full course-load this fall, it might allow me a better grasp on what I want out of furthering my art school education.
2 Suck it up and move to Vancouver. Find a place to live in Vancouver and attend Emily Carr. This would involve switching the program I’m currently enrolled in and possibly playing catch-up on some courses normally slotted into first and second year.
3 Defer. Decide to put off art school, continue to work, and make a decision about my future later.
While it seems I have my heart set on art school, it’s taken me until this point to realize that art school doesn’t make someone an artist. I know this should seem evident to anyone not in my predicament, but I really felt that to propel my future as an artist further professionally, I needed more school. I needed a BFA and an MFA. I needed more. What it really comes down to is that I’m already an artist. I already take my craft seriously, which is part of what separates an amateur from a professional. What I choose to do about school won’t change that. School merely allows me to explore as an artist. I may choose to go to school, I might even choose to go to Vancouver… or I may just choose to move to a more artistic city, like Victoria. In any case, my choice won’t make me any less of an artist, and that is a lesson I needed to learn.
This is how we realize that we don’t have to go to art school.