Creative People in Public Schools: An Essay

Ok, so it’s not really an essay.

Look, here’s the deal…

I don’t really like venting to the general public, but there are some things that really just need to be said. Today’s topic: creative people in public schools.

Now, I’m sure many of my fellow creatives have been told the same thing as I have: ‘art doesn’t pay the bills.’  As a young student, generally grades K-12, kids are encouraged to take “elective” classes: art, photography, ceramics, etc. And that’s all those classes are. Electives.  But to some of us, they’re not just electives. That’s what we want to do with our lives. Only problem is, nobody tells you about art schools in high school,* it’s like it was forbidden or something.

*Yes, the is a generalized statement, there are some schools that do mention art colleges, but the majority of public schools in this country like to push people more towards academic schools. (Especially after they cut major funding to the arts and physical education departments nation wide.)

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For the longest time, I never wanted to go to college. There was nothing there for me. I’m not good at math, I’m ok at english but I don’t want to be a teacher or journalist, science is cool and all, but it generally involves, you know, math, and electives are just for funsies, right? No. Stop telling people this.

There was a teacher I had in high school, Brett Tujague. who always supported my love for photography and was the one that convinced me, in the end to go to college. Not necessarily for photography, mind you, as he was in the same boat the rest of them were with the whole art thing. But never the less, he encouraged me to go to a 4 year college to ‘see what I liked.’ And I will admit, the two years I spent at CSU Monterey Bay weren’t completely wasted. I took some amazing classes that I feel made my education a little more rounded. Feminist theories, beginning business, communications, science, and of course, photography. I definitely enjoyed my time there, and had a really fun job as a CSO Officer at our campus police station, which also broadened my horizons as a person.

At some point during my time, I was doing some photography research online and found this school, Brooks Institute, that specialized specifically in commercial photography. I sent out for a course packet to see what they were all about, and that was that. I was a Brookie from then on.

The point is, you can be a professional photographer or artist. Instead of telling people it can’t be done, you really need to get into the reality of the situation here. You just have to be smart about it. Don’t get in the mind-set that art can’t be taught, because believe me, it can. Especially with a technical medium like photography, it’s really important to go to school and learn all you can about your art form. Brooks Institute and the amazing teachers there* taught me more about photography than I had ever hoped to learn. It’s a difficult, (and expensive) road, and you’ll get a lot of rejection and struggle along the way, but you can, in fact, be an artist for a living. You’ve just got to look at it a little differently. 

*Shout out to Ralph Clevenger, Paul Meyer, Eliot Crowley and Bill Robbins!

There are a lot of artists who won’t sacrifice their vision for money, and I get it, we’re usually a pretty stubborn bunch. But for the rest of us who don’t want to be stuck at a desk job, or customer service knowing we will never be passionate about it, we’ve got to find a way to do what we were meant to do. It’s ok to gear yourself towards a commercial form of art. The way I see it, commercial art is still creative, and it pays the bills. You can always do your own art along the way, but at least your day job isn’t slowly killing you inside.

“Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. Never ignore what your heart pumps for. Build your career around your lifestyle, not your lifestyle around your career.” – Kevin Claiborne

{To see more of my work, visit my Instagram}

**On a more sad (and horribly ironic) note: About 2 minutes after posting this blog and tagging my totally awesome teachers in it, Paul Meyer replied back saying they just announced TODAY that Brooks Institute is closing for good on October 31st, 2016. After being open for 70 years of higher education, I am proud to say that I am one of the ones who graduated before it all ended. I would not be the same person I am today without the inspiration and knowledge given to me by the wonderful faculty of Brooks Institute. It saddens me to know that future generations will not be able to experience Blue Spheres, 6 Pack, Grey Box, Black Glass, (whispy-dos and whispy-dont’s included), and many other tedious assignments that turned people who like to take pictures into professional photographers. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

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