- Cara McSongwe
Art School and the “Major” Problem
When you’re young, going to college to follow your dreams seems like the only way to do it. As you grow up, however, capitalism starts to cloud your vision and shift your wants and needs. The possibility of going to school to do something you love becomes slim. All of this is to say that going to art school is a privilege. It’s easy to forget that getting an education in your main hobby can quickly turn from dream to nightmare.
I recently sat down with Pratt senior Kayla Abaza to talk about how studying her passion caused her to change her major and take a step back from the thing she thought she’d be doing her whole life.
We started off by discussing how she became interested in illustration before branching off into her current major, art history. Abaza explained that she’d been interested in art for as long as she could remember.
“My parents put me in art camps and specialized art schools, and I think I was so drawn to it because it was something that I was good at,” Abaza stated. “Because I was doing it for so long, I felt like I didn’t know how to do anything else.”
This is a sentiment many artists can relate to, myself included. When you’ve been working on your craft so long, you start to neglect other skill sets, especially when you’re under the impression that this is the thing you’ll be doing forever. As an artist, sometimes you get so good at what you do that it’s not until you acknowledge that you’re falling out of love with it that you realize you don’t know how to do anything else.
“I really loved art my entire life,” Abaza stated. “It's what I poured my heart and soul into, so naturally, I thought I would make a career out of it. The more I pushed my art towards commercial standards, the less I liked the art I was making and the more miserable I felt.”
Abaza also recognized how this resentment was more of a slow creep, one she didn’t see coming until it had engulfed her and her work.
We also discussed how going to Pratt helped and harmed Abaza’s passion towards her art.
“[Pratt] definitely helped me [become] better as an artist, technique wise, but I would’ve gotten better regardless over time,” Abaza said. “It killed my passion for it. I was constantly doing assignments and projects I just didn’t want to make.”
It’s painful to think how the curriculum designed to help you can also hurt you.When you’re in an educational system that can’t afford to cater to each individual, people fall through the cracks.
This doesn’t mean that art school isn’t worth it, though. It’s important to remember that your younger self’s fantasy about college is exactly that: a fantasy. Making your hobby full time work doesn’t make it a hobby anymore.
Art by Avery Slezak