Is higher education worth it? Is a University degree part of that road to being an artist? Bex and Stacey both feel that it’s a big NO, and here I am sat on the fence not quite sure what I should think. Do I advocate for people to go get a B.A (Hons) in Fine Art, or do I say “Fuck the system and do what feels right to you”?
I credit the fact that University years were some of my best purely down to the people I met and the people I knew. Graduating didn’t mean that I was propelled head first into the real art world. It meant that I graduated hating art and having to rationalise every.little.decision. Studying art at degree level meant even aesthetics can’t be sole reason for doing something, and “just because” is a dirty necrotten phrase.
Studying at University gave a subtle, comfortable structure to my life, the academic year as cyclical and reliable as the seasons. After playing that game of education for the first 16 years of my life, it wasn’t so much a logical step but a comfortable step.
The road I’ve taken in life, is so very different to 13-year-old-Erin. At 13 I had just started self harming, I had just started drinking and experimenting with drugs. I wasn’t happy, but that doesn’t seem to matter so much, the unhappiness led to the risky behaviours. A disconnect with my peers left me feeling oh so alienated, and all I wanted to do was be a vet. I don’t even remember changing my thinking about how I didn’t want to be a vet, but perceptive Erin of all of 15 knew that 4 hours of home tuition a week and wanting to study a highly competitive and challenging subject don’t exactly work.
Art school at 16 became something of an escape. I invested so much into my education, I invested my soul, my heart and money, and the belief that it would all lead to potential happiness. I haven’t had a financial return from my initial investment, and I am in so much debt to student loans, but I don’t care. I never went to university to earn mega-money after. I went because my heart ignores anything to do with money, it’s just paper. I went because something inside me said “just do it”.
I will always be more driven by my passions and my hearts desires than anything that could look like money. Attending art school for me, had nothing to do with employment, it had everything to do with me being able to explore my artistic practice full time without too much concern over when/if I’d be able to afford rent, (cheers student loans). And although I realise that putting myself in quarter of a millions pounds worth of debt was a high price to pay for that chance, I wouldn’t change it.
Has this road led me to being happy either? Maybe, but I’m slowly coming to the realisation that I need art, wether I’m happy or not, and that maybe I’m never going to experience ‘happy’ like you would. My happiness comes in waking up and not immediately wanting to die. It’s the little things.
In the end, art school didn’t ever become this big escape from myself, I ended up plagued by similar problems throughout my 4 year study. Like I mentioned previously too, it hasn’t propelled me into the big wide art world either. In fact, on paper, what did art school give me? Exactly that, a piece of paper, but the experiences of those 4 years have touched my heart in a variety of ways, and lent me to be the person I am today.