A Message to Fine Arts Undergrads:Â Creating Community in Diversity
So begins the journey into an unknown, but familiar future. The last semester at aÂ university bounces you between dizzying visions of success and failure, and if you are like me,Â memories of working a terrible non work-study job to make ends meet. You do not have to beÂ a genius to recognize that a Fine Arts degree is not going to necessarily make you a success. InÂ reality, it is probably not good for a lot, unless it has given you the time to become a masterÂ painter or composer (the same thing you will likely be working towards in graduate school). ForÂ us Cinematic Arts kids (those of us you probably did not even know we had a building onÂ campus or at least part of one) education is mostly an internal experience. We are like the restÂ of the Fine Arts department in this way. We are taught critical thought, how to internalize ourÂ own processes, meet deadlines and use a semicolon correctly (oh God, did I miss one?). HowÂ does it apply to the real world though? What is that all about? Well, I am here to help you.
People will tell you that school is all about community. However, by the time you areÂ two-plus years into your undergraduate degree, you will start to wonder if such a communityÂ ever existed. Perhaps you will try the various societies around campus that often do little, ifÂ anything at all. I recently posted on Facebook to one such group: â€œWhat is it you guys doÂ exactly?â€ I have yet to receive a response. There also seems to be a lack of foresight inÂ departments interacting with their students. With all the bellyaching about budget cuts andÂ new business models departments are forced to deal with, they miss out on the most costÂ effective and useful thing to students: socialization with their peers. When is the last time yourÂ department had an event where faculty and students could just hang out and talk? If theÂ budget allowed, you could even have some splendid fruit punch or Kool-Aid. My message toÂ you is donâ€™t wait for that to happen. University is a bureaucratic echo chamber. YourÂ department has probably been talking about such an event for the last four years. Grab theÂ coolest kids you know from your classes and do it yourself (maybe you can get your favoriteÂ professors to take part).
I will not list all the staff who did not respond to my emails during my efforts to coerceÂ departmental cooperation (you know who you are, Costuming). An email response takesÂ twenty seconds; my frustration lasts a lifetime. Anyway, let me give you some other greatÂ advice: try to not get frustrated and do whatever you can to seek helpful people out. Post onÂ every Listserv and bulletin board on campus, bang on professorsâ€™ doors (especially when theyÂ ignore email) and find people with similar interests. Slug line: â€œartsy academic seeks gorgeous,Â vivacious brain for steamy intellectual pursuits.â€ My best education came from asking people toÂ have a beer or coffee with me. I have forged great friendships this way, with teachers andÂ students alike. I was even able to build a website driven by a network of film and televisionÂ enthusiasts. We even have a weekly screenwriting group now (we inspire each other everyÂ Thursday). Be proactive. Donâ€™t waste your time around so many propitious and talentedÂ students who can teach you more than you will learn by only sitting in massive lecture halls.
Last and very importantly: make a portfolio. Most likely you will approach the end ofÂ your education with little work to show (a negative to a broad education). For me, this meantÂ taking as many independent-study projects as I could handle. However, in the end, it is moreÂ important to make the time for yourself. This is because everything you make early in yourÂ degree, you will likely hate by the end. This is the natural and rather frustrating progression ofÂ getting better at something. I would advise more coursework earlier in your degree, so thatÂ you have a lighter load your final semester. Therefore, you will have the time to createÂ memorable works to further your professional career. Moreover, use department resourcesÂ during this time (even if they are outdated), set a block of time for yourself and let yourÂ creativity take hold. I will leave you, my artistic comrades and peers, with a few last words ofÂ wisdom. To paraphrase something I am sure someone said better at some point in history: artÂ does not require time, but rather, it requires passion, which will always create the time you need.
As seen in the March 2013 issue of Bound Magazine. Written by Jeremy Shattuck.
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