What you should expect to learn from art school

From a graduate to a newcomer

Photo by: Beibei Lu

The importance of having a professional experience while learning the critical and technical skills at university cannot be understated.

During my seven years at the University at Manitoba I took part in three art exhibitions, and all three of these were very important for my progression as an artist. Having a show while in a safe environment like a university provided me with an excellent opportunity for substantial growth. I was able to get feedback from my professors while installing, reflect on what skills my education has given me, and then use this reflection to focus on some of the areas I felt I needed to grow in.

Curating a show was a very valuable experience for me to have as a young artist. Having an exhibition where I was the primary person responsible for everything was intense and rewarding. Technical skills such as lighting, spacing, installing, hanging, and writing both artist statements and piece statements all got built up during this process. Even things I might not have considered before, like advertising, were important skills to hone for later in my career. I was also provided the opportunity to see how my works interact and engage with one another. I witnessed how pieces work beside each other and how much space they need.

It is an extremely satisfying feeling to give pieces of artwork that I’ve been working on for many months a way to breathe in a white and spacious environment. My studio space is coloured chaos, and it’s hard to look critically at my work when it is surrounded by the tools and materials used to create it. There can be so much baggage in the work I create sometimes that being surrounded by the artifacts of creation can be overwhelming. Giving work the space it craves has always provided me the chance to reflect on its significance and a sense of finality. Art exhibitions have acted as precipes in my career, and a new body of work always commences afterwards.

Coming out of art school and starting an art career can be an intimidating endeavour. The deadlines and peer/professor critique university provides suddenly disappear. While this freedom can be liberating, after a little while a sense of craving for structure can build. This is one of the reasons having an art show is so important. It not only provides a goal to work towards, but builds the desire to continue working towards future exhibitions.

Confidence is the most important thing each exhibition has given me. With every show, a part of myself becomes justified in the work I’ve created and the ideas I’ve had. Confidence is a very important attribute for every artist and this is especially magnified when you’re just starting your journey into the art world. When you start out, you’re not sure of what to expect.

When artists create we give a part of ourselves to the world to look upon. It can be frightening and it can be a difficult feeling to get past – but with every exhibition and with every opportunity to get our work out there, this feeling lessens. Step by step we gain the confidence to continue producing and challenging ourselves a little more. The biggest step is the one that starts it all.