TOP FIVE WAYS FOR ARTS JOURNALISM STUDENTS TO BE AWESOME, DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOU’LL KIND OF FEEL LIKE AN OUTSIDER AT SAIC
— Amanda Aldinger
Here’s the thing: it’s a brand new program at an art school — kinks are inevitable. We journalists like art a lot (we really do, guys!), but we don’t make it with our hands and we don’t study it historically. Let’s just say, if this was grad school, we probably wouldn’t be picked first for kickball. While SAIC may not be a journalism school, it has some pretty awesome resources for people who like journalism, like art, and want to merge those two things into a career. Here’s a few tips on thriving as an outsider and reaping your Master’s for all its worth.
1. Pick a focus. Undergrad was for finding yourself, my friend. Grad school is all about diving into two very expensive years of your life and getting as much out of it as possible. Ergo, I suggest that get yourself a focus and dedicate your studies to learning, and writing, as much about that area as humanly possible. There are lots of non-studio class options available for different approaches to art (while the Art History people are scary, this is where their engorged curriculum comes in handy), and there many ways to create your own academic path based on your interests. Nail it down and push forward — two years goes by fast.
2. Befriend students from other departments. Like the rest of Chicago, SAIC students are pretty segregated. Not deliberately, but students tend to stick to their respective disciplines and most studio artists never see the light of day. Once you’ve accomplished #1, it would behoove you to get out and meet new people in your area of focus (even outside of it, if you’re feeling crazy!). Not only can they provide you with a wealth of awesome information and provocative interview material, but it’s pretty cool to hang out in an artist’s studio. Have you ever seen the Designed Objects studios, or where the fashion designers work? It’s like an alternate universe.
3. Read. A lot. Yes, this seems like a given. But you’d be surprised at how strong that undergrad impulse is to ignore the syllabus once you’re assigned tons and tons of stuff to read. Especially when you’re also being assigned tons and tons of stuff to write. The best journalists have a natural cache of referential material at their fingertips. This allows their writing to soar above the rest because their endless pit of cultural knowledge and proclivity for obscure references just can’t be equaled. Speaking of: did you know that in “The Godfather,” Marlon Brando’s mouth was stuffed with cotton balls the entire time they filmed, creating that droopy face and iconic voice affectation? (See? Genius.)
4. Don’t expect things to be spoon fed to you. Artists need time, space, and free will to nurture their own creativity and let their genius organically develop. Journalists need deadlines, cracked whips, and cynics for editors. Think of your career as beginning the moment you walk into your first class. You can leave in two years with loads of clips, having monetized your homework by freelancing it out … or you can complain about the school’s more free spirited directional system. I mean, it’s your 60 grand, but the goal is to be a working journalist at some point, right? So start working.
5. Use the school’s resources. They’re pretty great. I remember walking into the Ryerson and Burnham libraries during orientation, when they told us that grad students are part of like, 1% of the world’s population that are allowed access to their incredible collection of materials and thinking, “Wow, I’m going to come here all the time. I’m going to LIVE in this library!” I went once. And it was because I had to for class … during class. Between the Artist’s Book Collection, the Fashion Resource Center, the libraries, the media center, the Video Databank, and the host of other incredible materials that you’ll never have access to once you graduate, this is your opportunity to interact with an unparalleled collection of resources. Beat the school at its own game and use all their things. You won’t regret it.