An Artist’s Education: Academic or Informal?

Aspiring artists often find themselves at a crossroads:  Should they pursue formal schooling in their craft or will the pressures of academia hinder the artistic process?  Three San Antonio artists share their views on arts and academics as they relate to artists striving for a place in the creative world.

Chris Sauter

“Most artists actually have formal training.  If you were to take a poll of the most successful artists, they have MFAs,” says local contemporary artist Christopher Sauter.  “There is a certain language used in the art world and that language one learns in graduate school.  Also, you learn about what happened in art before so when you come out, you’re not reinventing the wheel.”

Artist Hills Snyder had a different experience, receiving his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) nearly 20 years after dropping out of his BFA college plan.

“By the time I got back around to the MFA, I was so far into what I was doing that I couldn’t be ruined by the academic process,” says Snyder.  When asked if a formal arts education has a positive or negative influence on artists, he said, “It is completely up to the individual and has the potential for either.”

It can be difficult for some schools to integrate both the conceptual elements of art as well as the actual practices of art making, according to performance and participatory artist Julia Barbosa Landois.  However, one gains various skills in college that prove invaluable in the real world.

Julia Barbosa Landois

“Our critiques were public at the end of every semester and that could be really painful, but I think it helps you build a thicker skin and you get more confident talking about your work,” says Landois.  “You’re more set in your determination to believe in what you want to do, whether everyone will like it or not.”


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