Or how I went to art school by not going to art school.

It was 1976 I just finished my first year in design school. During this time I was exposed to art, real art, for the first time. One pivotal moment was seeing a showcase with a few pieces of a Mount Royal College student who had committed suicide.  His story and art really had an impact on me. The other pivotal moment was the drawing class…I wanted that.

I contacted ACAD, the Alberta College of Art and Design, and asked about transferring and if I would get credit for some of my first year of design school. They would credit for one or two classes, but I would have to start fresh in the first year.  Bummer, but it made sense.

Armed with my due diligence, I approached my dad to talk about transferring. Sigh.

This was 40 years ago, so I don’t remember his exact words save one, no. Needless to say I was disappointed. I went back to finish my diploma in interior design and went on to running my own firm and employing 12 designers, architectural draftspeople and support staff.

I think what played out for me this is a very common scenario. Good kid does what she’s told. Good kid didn’t know there were options, like student loans and going it alone. But the good kid was lucky, very lucky to have had her parents pay for a college education when most kids in the hood never contemplated going to college.

Fast forward to the mid 80’s. I started with Richard Halliday’s figure drawing class. Yes, I became a night school student.  Then Bev Tosh’s figure drawing class. Then Katie Ohe’s sculpture class. The list goes on for the next 15 years. My last teacher and mentor was late John Brocke (figure painting).

It was during my time being mentored by John, in the late 90’s, that I started thinking about going to ACAD again, this time as a mature student, part time.  I talked to admissions and got all the details and an application. There were lots of hoops, portfolio to make, work to create so I could make the portfolio. Oh my! And a business to run, OH MY! I started asking myself…

  • Was I getting hung up on having the legitimacy of a degree?
  • Could I afford it? Tuition is expensive.
  • I had a design firm to run, could I take the time away to go to school part time?

In the end I decided not to apply. And when I mentioned this to John Brocke, his comment confirmed my decision was the right one for me. So what did John say…?

He said that I wouldn’t thrive in art school, because I had more life experience that most of the instructors.

So I never received an arts degree. I went to art school to learn what I needed to learn at the time I needed to learn it. I became self-taught with a number of talented instructors and mentors.

There’s a number of pros and cons of obtaining an art education the way I did. I’ll go into that in the next post.

Photo credit: http://dismagazine.com/

6 Replies

  1. Thank you for sharing a bit of your history, Kim! I found it very interesting and encouraging. I also do not have a formal art education. Just a Lot of Practise. BTW, Keep up the great work! You are amazing 🙂

    1. Thanks Judy, I appreciate it. It’s also good to know I’m not alone in the lack of art degrees.

      Lot’s of practice eventually makes perfect!

  2. Loved the post! Plus, I learned something about you. Had no idea you were an interior designer.

    I have to admit that I have feelings of inferiority without the art degree, although I do have lots of other knowledge. It’s good to know that your decision was affirmed by your mentor.

    1. It’s seems my interiors career was a lifetime ago. I don’t identify with it anymore (neither does my house).

      I freely admit too, that I get feelings of inferiority without a BFA. Writing this article has really helped me see how much the artist in me has always been there, degree or no.

  3. Lol! That sounds exactly like something Dad would have said. I miss his good advice every day. He was also an incredibly gifted artist – if you haven’t gone to see it yet, Myth-making: The Art of John Brocke is up at the Glenbow Museum until September 13, 2015.

    1. I bet you do, he was a wonder teacher. I’m sorry you lost him too soon.

      I was able to attend the opening reception and must say WOW, the work is so thoughtful and thought provoking. I only wish he could have seen it.

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