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Friday, April 4, 2014

School vs. Self-Taught

Is a college degree in art even necessary?


It’s that time of year again where acceptance and rejection letters are starting to hit the mailboxes of aspiring college students who are ready to major in some type of art. Families are filling out those FAFSA forms and counting their nickels and dimes to pay for that coveted degree. But how important is it to attain a college degree in art? Does it matter if an up and coming artist attends SCAD or Tisch School of the Arts or if they attend school at all?

Since I started interviewing artists for my multicultural art blog two phrases kept coming up in conversation; – I’m a self-taught artist. – I’m a school taught artist. The school taught artists goes into what schools they went to while the self-taught artists start to explain why they didn’t go to school.


What is the big deal between the two? Is there a difference? At first I really couldn’t tell until I went through some video for future posts for the Behind the Canvas video series.

(Works of Lyvan Munlyn)
The intricate details of Lyvan Munlyn, who went to a series of art schools, really stood out in his work. Munlyn started his art education while he was a teenager at Duke Ellington High School in Washington D.C. He then went to the University of Maryland, where he majored in Medical Illustration and then headed over to Pratt Institute where he majored in Film and Video.

Then I went through some photos of painting of Arcmanoro Niles, who also went to Duke Ellington High School of the Arts and a list of other prominent art schools to master his craft. I remembered how his oil and canvas of Infinite Regression pulled me into the canvas. His grandfather’s dying eyes simultaneously gave me a sense of fear, which was washed away with calmness as it relates to death.

(Monkey Mind by Maeva Fouche)
But then self-taught artist Maeva Fouche’s Monkey Minds gave me a feeling of chaos. On that day, that week, that month my head was full of ideas, and inspirational thoughts about what to do with this blog, which kept running through my mind.

“Monkeys are known to be mischievous,” said Fouche. “The monkeys are laughing at you because you are trying to focus but you can’t.” The description of her Basquiat inspired painting really hit the nail on the head.

The way a painting, sculpture, installation etc., makes a person feel, whether they are a collector or creator, can’t be taught. So why do people waste money on attaining a higher education if they have natural talent to extract emotions with art?

From my understanding, school taught artists invest in higher education because they have a desire to learn new skills. They want to know how to hold a brush, how to incorporate different techniques and present them in the media of their choice, which is a valuable asset when trying to become a reputable, respected and profitable artist.

When I look at the other side of the color pallet, self-taught artists aren’t locked down by rules and techniques. They come up with their own style without direction, which leads them to also become a reputable, respected and profitable artist.


  • So how important is it that an artist goes to school for their craft?
  • Are you a self-taught or school taught artist? 

Tweet your answers to @TCsViews or send them over to astutestories@gmail.com.
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