OPINION: An art school or a school with art?

Aurora Phillips
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: Aiya Hunter holds objects representing each of the pathways while her wrists are tied, to symbolize being restricted from creative artistic expression.

I think being a professional artist requires several key components, a few being; knowing your talents, understanding the business, training, experience, and patience. At school I am a student and actor, yet, I haven’t been offered classes that focus on how to help me manage the acting world outside of school.

There are barely any classes that focus primarily on business, understanding salaries, work unions, managers, or company acting versus independent, to prepare me for the realistic harshness of choosing art as a profession. From what I’ve seen being done at other art based high schools, I feel unready to be independent in the professional art world. However, I do understand as a public charter school, funding is scarce as well as resources.

I’m currently in my junior year which is the time for me to begin looking for career options after high school. Looking at college applications and learning of high school arts conservatories in my region has been a hard slap to the face. There’s an entire business world to art that I have learned little to nothing about! Of course I know the headshots, the resumes, experience, and all of those simple things that are needed, but these are the stereotypical things you see in movies. The truth is having a guide that’s just as concentrated on your art as you are is what you need in an arts high school. Whether the guide is the school, yourself, someone else, or words on a paper.  

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Sadly, our school is known as an arts academy, but our administrators prefer the traditional high school format.

— Aiya Hunter

Sadly, our school is known as an arts academy, but our administrators prefer the traditional high school format. Which is obvious considering the motivational push for attendance is greater than the push for arts or high grades. I think this hurts students like myself who don’t plan on working in a traditional job. More common jobs are desk jobs, nursing, office clerks, etc., which all have different requirements.

I don’t want the school to cut out basic classes that you need for those job fields but I believe our arts classes should be higher quality, top priority, or at least just as good as required core classes. Although we have arts classes that other schools probably don’t, it means nothing if we don’t hold them to a certain standard that our school community can be proud of.

Being a seventeen-year-old dreamer gives you a lot of passion and ideas; school is where you go to curate that energy and shape it. However, in a lot of arts classes and around the school the bar is lowered to accommodate for the less serious students, which only harms others by letting them miss out on valuable time. A few examples are allowing students to come back to the school after several disciplinary leaves or not flinching when students fail art classes or aren’t participating in showcases. 

An art school or a school with art?

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There are plenty of ways to change our current system of leniency and sometimes laziness. One idea is inviting more speakers or demonstrators into our school: People who have been where we are or have wanted to. The difficulty in this is not all speakers come for free and that scheduling is a job on its own because of other events and testing going on in the school.

Another idea is changing the way classes are scheduled. Having a base arts level and then students move on to the next level, based on how they worked in the last one. Similar to regular grading but with the addition of an audition process through end of the year evaluations.

Or change the schedule times. I know adding an hour onto the day seems like hell to some people but if we have break time in between then it could seriously change our perspective. At Walnut Hill School for the Arts, their academic classes are from 8 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. or 1:50 p.m. on depending on the day, with a short transition time, then arts classes are from 2:05 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. The most expensive idea is to hire arts counselors, people who check on or with students pursuing art and are guides for strictly artistic pathways.

Just like any high school, there are parts that function well and other parts that do not. One great part of our school is that we are always changing and improving through the voice of the people affected most here; the students. GCAA has so much hidden potential that I think is worth exploring. My hope is that we can change our school system into one that works in favor of everyone, not just some.