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May 29, 2016 | by  | in Opinion |
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Going to art school was the best thing I have ever done

This is it.

It was the night of Exposure, Massey University’s graduate exhibition. I was about to do a speech on behalf of fine arts in front of so many people’s parents—but I couldn’t stop thinking about what all this really meant. I was relieved that the stress was finally over and I was happy with what I had accomplished and what my friends and peers had accomplished—but the realisation suddenly hit me and reality broke my heart. It was over.

I recently read over my speech I presented almost two years ago.  It brought me back to that moment, to those feelings and all those memories. I never expected art school to have this effect on me—it was the best four years I’ve ever spent.

So here are a few little insights into why:

The Studio

I made a lot of bad art, I made a lot of good art. I cried, I got drunk, I fell asleep on the pink velvet couch in the studio. I had no ideas, I had too many ideas. I was stressed, I was productive. I covered my body in paint. My friend Ruby and I once life drew each other, where at any moment anyone could have walked in. The studio was a second home and those within it became a family.

Crit Week

This was serious business. You could see the fear in people’s eyes. Crit week involved all fine art students, tutors, and invited guests (usually artists, curators, and lecturers) participating in a critique of students’ work. The studios were cleared out, all the T-walls repainted white, and if there was anything left in your space that wasn’t supposed to be there (e.g. nails on the floor or a piece of tape on the wall), it would be critiqued. Using blue tack was also a big no no. Honest opinion was vital and there was no holding back. You had to be strong and confident about your reasonings, letting all given feedback be constructive. Crit week was a positive and helpful process giving new perspectives, thoughts, and references—it was also great practice in talking about art. There was always a post-crit week party.

The Courtyard

The courtyard was situated between blocks one and two. These blocks were very important as they shared the computer lab, the workshop, and studio spaces. Often travelling back and forth multiple times each day, the courtyard also served as a place to sit, chat, and smoke durries. The conversations about what we were working on, stresses, and insecurities—we never faced them alone. Everyone listened, everyone contributed their opinion, and everyone gained insight. The courtyard was a refreshing space from being trapped in the studio / computer lab for hours on end.

New York

We arrived in New York City in the springtime. I, and 20 other fine art students plus three tutors, spent two weeks visiting numerous contemporary art galleries, museums, and artist studios. A few highlights from the trip were:

Hearing Judy Chicago speak at the Jewish Museum and getting a book signed by her while she discussed her love of cats. Dia:Beacon, which is an hour journey outside of NYC, has a collection of conceptual art from the 1960s to present. Here I experienced the works of Louise Bourgeois, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, and Robert Morris. The building itself was incredible, rooms filled natural light and wide open spaces. Seeing Lilith by Kiki Smith at MOMA was unexpected and I almost cried, as well as an abundance of paintings by Georgia O’Keefe at the Met.

We spent a lot of our time exploring different areas of the city, getting lost, visiting psychics, navigating the subway, talking to strangers, and spending a lot of time in bars. A friend of mine even fell in love and we didn’t see him for four days.


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