It has come to my attention that DA's latest contest, "What Does Your Artistic Journey Look Like?" is being sponsored by the Art Institutes. Deviant Art, really? For shame. I will NOT be participating in this contest, and I encourage the rest of you to boycott it, and do so LOUDLY. Here's why.
I attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale for two years, from 2001 - 2003. It was THE WORST experience of my entire life, and I'm including my recent breakup with my fiance after a 14-year relationship. For a long time, it was the biggest and only regret I ever had. It took me more than a decade to overcome the long-lasting mental and financial impact it had on my life, and if I can stop even ONE PERSON from going through the same thing, then I can feel like my experience wasn't for nothing.
Here's How the Schools Work:
The Art Institutes recruiters will say ANYTHING to get you to sign up, and once you're locked into those student loans, they couldn't give a shit what happens to you. I had a recruiter praising my art up and down, saying my anime-inspired style would fit right in at the school, and once I got into classes the teachers HATED the style across the board. It was treated as unprofessional and a fad by all but a handful of instructors.
And let's not forget that the majority of instructors are not trained to teach at all. They are hired on the basis that they have worked in their field, so teaching turns out one of the following ways:
- It turns into show and tell and they show off everything they can do, but have been so advanced for so long they can't even explain the basics,
- The instructor is more concerned about using the class time and equipment to complete their own project, and ends up giving no instruction whatsoever,
- The teacher is rarely even there because they are still working in their field during the semester and you end up learning from handouts, or
- The teacher could not make a living in their field and is angry and bitter that they have to teach and takes it out on the students.
There's also the fact that they'll only let you change your major *once* without starting all over, and cutting from a bachelor's to an associate's counts as a change in major (because the bachelor's is called "Computer Animation" and the associate's is "Animation Art and Design"). Rate hikes tend to be pretty significant each year, too.
The school is year-round, with four "quarters" instead of two semesters, and you can't take breaks without losing your locked-in tuition rate unless you have a major medical emergency. I got tendinitis from having to do insane amounts of work on short deadlines, and had to talk to six different people and provide ungodly amounts of paperwork to take one quarter off. You also lose your locked-in rate if you take fewer than four classes a quarter.
I never graduated from the Art Institute, despite making it nearly to the end of my degree. Along with the tendinitis, I suffered from an actual nervous breakdown and became deeply depressed and suicidal. I came out of it $13,000 in debt. This does not include the nearly $30,000 my parents owed, because if you are under 24 when you register, your parents are REQUIRED to take out a parent plus loan along with your own student loan. To top it all off, there isn't a single thing there I couldn't have learned from online tutorials. It is a HUGE SCAM, and NOT WORTH THE MONEY EVEN IF YOU GRADUATE.
Here is my advice on art school, if you want to go:
Go to community college. Look into which ones have good art programs. Sometimes this might mean driving an hour or more to go to the rich hippie college in a different city, but this is WORTH IT. I went to Scottsdale Community College and got a better art education from more qualified and accomplished instructors than most of those at AI. They included gallery owners, former art directors from big name video game companies, big-name design professionals, and a renowned native american artist. They were all people who were passionate about helping students improve their skills. Take as many life drawing classes as you can. Get a firm foundation in the basics. Get your Fine Arts degree at Community College, and then evaluate what you really want to do from there. This might be enough school for you!
Sometimes you need that bachelor's degree to land the job you want. More often, your portfolio will speak louder than your education stats. If you want more schooling, do some real, hardcore research into what's right for you. For animation, CalArts and SCAD are some of the best in the US. If you have a specific company you're aiming for, see if they have partner schools or are known to hire from certain schools. Dreamworks has a whole list of schools right on their website: www.dreamworksanimation.com/co… Try to find people who went to those schools and talk to them, or even go to campus and ask what things are like before you start.
Some people just skip school altogether and straight up move to Korea or Japan to learn animation and let their talent speak for themselves. You have to do what's right for YOU.
And once you are in a school, never forget that you are their customer, and you have the right to demand good service. If you have a problem with a teacher, talk to that teacher. If they give you crap about it, talk to the department head. Go all the way to the dean if you need to, and get your issue addressed. It's not high school; you're not required to be there, and the teacher does not rule all. They are educators who should be treated with respect, yes, but they should also treat the students with respect. You are paying to be there, and you have the right to get your money's worth.
I'm not alone in this. Go here to read a friend's experience at another of the Art Institutes:
A warning about the current DA contest sponsorCurrently, there is an official DA contest going on that is sponsored by The Art Institutes. I think contests are great but obviously this is just an advertisement for the college.
You might be interested in learning more about the AI school... After all, there are ton of them scattered around the country but I will warn you right now as your friend BEFORE YOU CONTACT ADMISSIONS OR SEEK ANY INFO ABOUT THE ART INSTITUTES LOOK INTO THEM. I personally enrolled in one of these schools and it was the worst decision of my life. After my experience, I can wholeheartedly without a shadow of a doubt tell you that schools like this DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR DREAMS. THEY ONLY CARE ABOUT MONEY. Admissions personnel are not your friends. They might say that they have a high graduation rate or that a good number of people who graduate get employed BUT DO THEY REALLY? Before you ask them for information, research the company. Do not think going there will help get you a good job because I know a ha