By Vanessa Norris
I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a degree in the ceramic arts, which means not only am I knowledgeable about ceramics but I can also use my hands (and brain!) for a variety of tasks wholly unrelated to clay. Specializing in a medium allows the development of a specific set of skills but more importantly, art school breeds the ability to problem solve--and that is the key to success.
Transitioning from academia causes a collective sigh of relief; however, with that diploma comes responsibility. With that diploma comes the decade long (if you're lucky) student loan repayment—not to mention the ever incessant questioning about what anyone could possibly do with an art degree, followed by an ignorant joke about becoming well acquainted with the frialator. This is irritating for a number of reasons--not the least of which is the implication that people who work at fast food restaurants are not worthy of respect. So, understandably, my answers to this questioning have varied throughout the years (though generally accompanied by weary disgust), but I've since landed on a better and more complete retort. As an artist, one must wear many hats: there's the obvious artist hat, the business person hat, the salesperson hat, the entrepreneur hat, the teacher hat, the maintenance/repair hat, the problem solver hat, the researcher hat... The list goes on. Art school graduates have skills that are transferable to other mediums that they have perhaps never even touched and are able to balance their time wisely, making attuned decisions based on careful observations. We're well rounded, and we work hard. Putting in a forty hour week, for most artists, would be a vacation--a luxury! Being an artist is also a position of privilege, and we do not take that responsibility lightly. We are the thinkers, the doers, the makers of today. It is our responsibility to see with new eyes, to question the norm, to point out and fight to end the disparities that plague the world--and, in my case, to make pots that fill your homes with the unordinary beauty and character Target dishes lack. This is why I will always be on the pursuit of busting the lazy artist myth. We're shaking up your world view, and we're here to stay.
So, what are we doing with our art degrees, you ask?
What are we not doing?