Advice for Art Majors: How I Would Do College Differently

There is something of a debate over whether artists who pursue formal education should attend an art school or a liberal arts college with an art program.

I went to a liberal arts school and loved it.

I loved my 4 years at Harding. I would gotten a lot out of AI Atlanta or SCAD or RISD, but instead I went to Harding University, a Church of Christ-affiliated liberal arts college. And I’m glad I did.

I got to interact with a lot of different majors and types of people. I had friends who were theatre majors, English majors, math majors, and more. I got to know people from all walks of campus life. I know college students are their own demographic, but there are so many subgroups on campus.

Memories are made outside the classroom

I gotta say the best parts of my college experience were not so much what happened in the classroom but what happened out of the classroom. Getting to hang out with my fellow art majors just to get something eat or hang out in the dorm. Late night excursions to Taco Bell or the Bulldog in Bald Knob for a hamburger.

And how can I forget the hours I spent at Midnight Oil Coffeehouse?

From their opening week my freshman year until the time I graduated, I was a regular there. Remember Norm on Cheers? That was Midnight Oil for me.

I went there for Bible studies. I hung out with friends. I took dates there. I studied and read and sketched. I loved it so much that did a couple of paintings of the interior. Those beat-up walls. The cool art. Friends setting up to play acoustic sets. That ugly old sofa that everyone loved. This was before Starbucks was everywhere, so Midnight Oil had snarky signs explaining that this was “real” cappuccino, not the kind you find in gas stations.

There was a lot of stuff to do despite living in a small college town in the middle of nowhere.

The funniest off-campus experience I had was when about five of us graphic design majors decided to try the taekwondo studio that was giving free lessons.I attempted to deliver a kick. As I did so, I broke wind.

My eyes bugged out of my head, and we just about all collapsed in giggles.

It was a complete accident but it was hilarious.

There was a group of five-year-olds practicing their moves with their game faces on. They could probably take us all down without breaking a sweat, and we 20-year-olds were giggling because somebody (yours truly) farted.

What I wish I had done differently

My only regrets are that I did not stick around at least one or two more semesters to add some more studies to my repertoire. I wish I had earned a painting minor. Or maybe a second major. (I have a BFA in Graphic Design. I love graphic design, but I love painting even more.) Or a minor in marketing or business.But I was ready to graduate and be done with school. I was ready for the next phase. But I wasn’t prepared for it.

Advice for art majors

I encourage art majors to get a minor in business or marketing. Every artist or graphic designer will have to know how to brand and market herself. At some point you’re going to work for yourself, whether you want to or not! Knowing how to run a business is a must. At the very least, you’ll be running a side gig at some point. I’ve been laid off from two full-time graphic design jobs, and having that freelance design side hustle really paid off. So well, in fact, that when I got laid off a year ago, my side hustle very nearly became a full-time gig before someone offered me a great full-time job as a graphic designer.There is a lot you learn on the job but learning it in the classroom can get you there faster. And the connections you make have the potential to last a lifetime.