It’s definitely not an ordinary path, but experiencing a summer completely immersed in art practice could be the path to the extraordinary. When I was 17, I spent my summer working at a smoothie bar for minimum wage sweating over a blender. While I am grateful for this experience, the landscape of employment for teens has changed, as has the kinds of skills that employers seek. At San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious colleges of art in the nation, at which I serve as the Director of our PreCollege Program, we believe that the visual arts are vital to shaping and enriching both society and individuals. For the past twelve years, I’ve been developing programs at SFAI that allow teens to build unique skills that not only prepare them for college, but for a lifetime of creativity.
This brings me to my ten reasons why you are actually lucky to have a teenager that is interested in pursuing art this summer (and beyond):
1. Creativity is the most sought-after quality in employees. According to a study by IBM of 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries, the most important skill needed by employees to navigate our increasingly complex world is creativity.
2. Arts education is linked to better academic performance. Students who study art are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and three times more likely to be awarded for school attendance.
3. Connecting with artistic mentors helps young artists set career goals and start taking steps to realize them. Summer art programs like the one at SFAI provide an opportunity to work in small classes with internationally recognized artists who develop long-lasting bonds with their students. Faculty member Laura Boles Faw mentioned that she, “felt fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know each of [my students] and their artistic practices. I can’t wait to witness their continued growth as artists!”
4. Creating meaningful peer connections with other motivated teen artists unites students toward reaching their goals. As student Téa Blatt described, “Being at SFAI is like being a part of this community of independent and creative thinkers. Everyone is so different and comes from so many different backgrounds, yet we all get along because we have such a strong bond through our art.”
5. Building a strong portfolio. The visual arts are less grade-centric than other disciplines. This isn't to say you shouldn't aim high, as grades still do matter. Rather, you should focus on making your portfolio the best you can possibly make it, and summer programs provide young artists with the space to do that, providing them with more college options. A good body of work speaks louder than grades, and that’s a great lesson for all of us.
6. Creative people are happier. A recent study in the UK, found that those working in the creative sectors demonstrated high levels of job satisfaction. If you have the passion and the motivation to pursue the arts, then a creative career can be an exciting and rewarding experience.
7. Building critical thinking skills. Art teaches open-ended thinking and creates an environment of questions rather than answers. This often re-ignites the love of learning in students tired of just being fed facts.
8. Developing a sense of identity.The visual arts are known to provide learners with non-academic benefits such as promoting self-esteem, motivation, aesthetic awareness, cultural exposure, creativity, improved emotional expression, as well as social harmony and appreciation of diversity.
9. Accessing the tools and equipment to build ambitious projects.Where else are you going to be able to experiment with so many different modes of art production without spending a fortune? When you go to a summer art program you have access to photography darkrooms, screenprinting, film equipment, computers, a recording studio, sculpture tools, and more.
10. Shortening your learning curve. I meet so many teens that attempt to teach themselves drawing or video editing, and that self-motivation will definitely take them far, BUT what they learn when immersed in art study is much greater.