When I was accepted to Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of the Arts, I pictured the rest of my life as a creative, paint-spattered, canvas-covered, clay throwing fantasy. Three years later, the thought of creating art in this school makes me sigh and roll my eyes. Going to art school has changed my attitude on art from one of love and freedom to one of disdain and boredom.
My positive attitude on art used to make me feel unique and expressive, I was the artsy friend who got accepted to art school and was going to grow up to be the boldest illustrator or painter or whatever else my peers imagined me doing. Now, my negative attitude towards art is what makes me unique.
Almost everyone else in my school has resolved their disputes about how our bland, monotonous educational system is run. They’re fine with it, fine with being drilled to make bland art every day of the week. They believe that it’s helpful. I used to believe the same. Freshman year I saw our classes and boring exercises as “basics,” there to help me grow into a better artist. However I didn’t grow, and was actually squashed down. My creativity, bursting at the seams, was forced into a box of painting leaves and drawing floors.
My unhappiness with these exercises soon made its way to my outward behavior, causing me to be rude and disrespectful to the teacher who had once been an authority figure. When he became the droning, one-dimensional, lazy “art teacher,” I became the bored, disrespectful “art student” who once was an artist. Soon enough, art class wasn’t about painting straight lines or creating color wheels. It was about testing boundaries and seeing how far I could go in a classroom that wanted me to go nowhere. I was meant to sit in my seat and do what the teacher said for 90 minutes, not to go out and test myself and my supposed artistic abilities. After a year I wasn’t sure they existed anymore.
I hoped that by my Junior year, I would get some relief, some inspiration, maybe some interesting art classes in my high school of the arts. In September I looked at my schedule and saw the same teacher who had plagued me my entire sophomore year; I’ll call him Mr Beige. I probably spent ten minutes complaining, sighing, and holding back tears while telling my friends. Being subjected to another four months of seeing Mr. Beige at 8 a.m., to his verbal operant conditioning system, being drained of all of my artistic drive was one of the worst things to happen to me that year. I would enter the musty, dank classroom, which always seemed to be held at 96 degrees Fahrenheit, sit down, and put myself through torture for 90 minutes. I dragged through my art class, despising every minute, in the high school that I had applied to and gotten accepted to, specifically to enjoy and create art.
On the last day of Junior year I was ecstatic to begin my summer. That night I painted the best acrylic painting of my life. Ironically I ended up creating the greatest quantity and quality of art in my time outside of school, on weeknights and summer days. I filled a sketchbook with the patterns and paintings of my mind, I painted tomadoes of dream sequences on a canvas, on my newspaper-covered floor. I created better art in the chaos of my own room, with jazz music in the background, in ten minutes, than in three years of art classes in my “school of the arts.”
The school that was supposed to inspire me to expand my mind and artistic talents ended up conditioning me to despise art teachers, classrooms, and techniques. My arts high school ended up pushing me to resent art class, and create art in my own wild and messy environments. In the end this was a positive effect, showing me that I can function on my own. Maybe if my art teachers had shared my lenient attitude, instead of trying to condition me to behave, I would have had a better artistic experience. Instead of learning art I learned independence. That was probably their plan all along.
Sophie Miller is a senior at Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
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