On Being an Art Major

By: Rachelli Schechter  |  April 12, 2016
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I_Am_an_Artist

“I wish I was an Art major!”

“So, what can you do with that?”

“Oh my gosh, that’s SO fun!”

“That’s so random.”

“But you dress too normally to be studying art!”

These exasperations echo through my head as I stand in the elevator of 215 Lexington, waiting for it to clear out at the seventh floor, where most of the English and Art History classes take place. As always, the vast majority of the students in the elevator exit and the remaining few of us stay on, heading up to the eighth floor — the art studio.

As a second year Stern student, and I am incredibly happy with my choice of school and specifically with my area of study. Currently, I love being an Art major, but this satisfaction did not come easily or quickly.

When I first decided to major in Studio Art, I was hesitant about being so open about it with my peers. I felt there was such an emphasis on and celebration of the science majors here at Stern, and as a non-science person in this environment, I thought that I would be seen as less intelligent or less capable of working hard and achieving a high level of intelligence. I felt a certain expectation to study something like biology or chemistry, because, at Stern, heavy textbooks and three hour labs are indicative of smart girls and future success.

Coming into Stern, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. All I knew was that the art and English classes excited me. Nonetheless, I started off in biology for majors, to keep my options open, and dropped it after the third class.

That was when the first epiphany of my college career struck: I didn’t want to be a bio major. I’ve always been a creative person, and I excelled at my art classes all throughout middle and high school. So why not study art?

Even when I did declare my Studio Art major, when people would ask about my major, I would answer vaguely, usually something along the lines of “I’m thinking about Art but I’m not sure yet.” I thought that by not giving a direct answer people wouldn’t judge either way, and I would be off the hook for meeting expectations.  

For a while I thought about double majoring in Art and English, just to verify that I could handle the intensity of a double major. I am a serious student and a very hard worker, and I wanted to prove that I would be able to handle it.

But who was I trying to prove my intelligence and competence to—my peers, or myself? At a certain point I realized that I had been so caught up in the stereotype of the “incapable-of-anything-else” Art student that I was going out of my way to give into it by striving to pull off a double major just for the sake of double majoring. I was trying to seem impressive instead of aiming to prove that as an Art student, I have a TON on my plate and I am incredibly capable of many things.

After three and a half semesters on campus as an Art major, I have finally become comfortable and very proud of my area of study. This is partially because I began to care less about what others think of me, but mostly because I came to the conclusion that as an Art major, I have a heck of a lot of work. My work may manifest itself differently than the work of those in the sciences, but it is still time-consuming nonetheless.

Sadly though, there are still students who jump to conclusions and judgments about the Art major without trying to understand what it really entails, immediately coining us as slackers.

But the truth is, I am not a slacker. I don’t spend my days cutting and pasting or doing “arts and crafts.” I don’t express my emotions through throwing paint around on a canvas, and I don’t have much free time. I am no less intelligent than other students because I spend my time on the eighth floor of 215 Lexington instead of in the labs, and my classes are not any easier or less demanding than those of the maths and sciences. I’m not a slacker.

I am an Art student. I know how to effectively give and take constructive criticism. I have a meticulous work ethic and I pay close attention to every detail of any project I work on. I am devoted to my work and I put in countless hours of time in the studio to meet my deadlines. I know how to make a sculpture out of 16-gage wire and I can recreate a photograph on any piece of paper by drawing a variety of tiny ink lines.

I have watched myself improve in areas I thought I couldn’t, and I’ve become quite attached to my exacto knife. I have a deeper knowledge of and appreciation for color, visual aesthetic, and design. and I have a better understanding of how my own brain works. I am equally as thought-out and technical in my work as I am loose and creative—I love rulers and paintbrushes alike. I get real, hands on experience, every single day, and I’ve made a network of friends who share my passions and understand the creative process just as I do. I think it’s awesome that I can use my talents to excel in school, and my work is not a burden—it is enjoyable.

I’ve stopped analyzing this “expectation” of who the ideal Stern student is and what she studies, and I’ve realized that there are no expectations that I need to be meeting, other than those of my own.

So, as the tidal wave of students exit the elevator onto the seventh floor and I am alone in the elevator, portfolio in hand, heading up to the studio, I think about how lucky I am to be in a department where I feel the most confident, proficient and hardworking. I am proud  of the community within Stern that I have put myself into—I am proud to call myself an Art major.

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