At my daughter’s school, the deputy head master asked her what she wanted to study at A level. She said she wanted to take Art, and Design-Technology, and Drama.
He said, “Ah yes, all the loser subjects.” That’s the view of the educational establishment.
Apparently, people who are going to be successful go to university. The losers go to art school.
I love that. Art schools are the best-kept secret in education.
People who haven’t been to art school think all you study is painting and sculpture. People who have been, know you study creativity. In all its aspects.
True, some people do actually end up doing painting or sculpture. But many more end up designing products, or packaging, or furniture, or fashion, or technology, or transport, or buildings, or making films, or theatre, or dance, or being photographers, or musicians, or actors.
Or even advertising.
Look around you. Unless it’s growing out of the ground, or walking or flying, there’s nothing you can see that wasn’t designed and manufactured. Everything around you was designed by someone who went to art school.
Here’s an amazing fact. Apparently, one in seven designers, worldwide, went to UK art schools.
In fact my wife came from Singapore to go to a UK art school. Because they don’t have art schools like ours in other countries.
Their art schools arec much more like universities. But our art schools have always been for rebels and rejects.
People who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, get on with formal education. People who were successful within the system ended up at University. Rebels and rejects went to art school.
See creativity isn’t about the academic process. You can promote creativity, you can encourage creativity, you can provoke creativity, you can excite creativity, you can channel creativity.
But you can’t learn it. You can’t read a book about it, memorise it, pass a test in it, and then be able to do it.
Creativity is exactly about surprise. And that’s about rebellion. The opposite of the academic process.
Now the bad news.
The government have turned all UK art schools into universities. This serves their purpose of being able to say that more people are going to university. But it ruins art schools. Because now you have to get a degree.
Which means you have to show you can perform academically. Which means you have to write essays and be able to conform. Which pretty much kills the creativity.
I know at least 5 people, two of them are account men, who did a foundation course at art school. Then they dropped out and went to university. Because they couldn’t handle the chaotic art school atmosphere. The fact that you’re left to your own devices.
No one marks your work, or gives you a gold star. You get hardly any feedback. You’re on your own competing against dozens of others.
These people had been successful at school, all the way up to A levels. But they couldn’t handle the lack of discipline, the lack of guidance, that passes for teaching at art school.
So they went back into the system, which was much more reassuring. For people like these universities serve a very useful purpose. They turn out great formal thinkers.
But universities are not art schools. Universities are about left-brain thinking.
Art schools are about right brain thinking.
One is about analysing and understanding why someone has done something. One is about actually doing it.
One is about reason. One is about the intuitive leap.
Both are valid. Both are needed.
We shouldn’t sacrifice one to the other. By turning art schools into universities we may have killed off one half of the equation.
We may have thrown away our advantage.