Like any high schooler in the college-selecting process, I faced a variety of options to choose from. My passions in different areas increased my confusion and uncertainty. Art universities offering a wide selection of specialized courses in animation, 2D and 3D design, illustration, and a number of other creative degrees that attracted me. I began to fixate on this idea of attending art school, as I do seek to pursue my artistic bent. However, during my sophomore year of high-school, a semester at a classical academy introduced me to a mesmerizing plane of academics. Classical education. I became entranced by the subjects of philosophy and literature taught with the classical approach, and enjoyed applying the methods of logic, thinking, and rhetoric, integral subjects to this form of learning, to my studies of history, literature, and everything else. I found myself eager to explore the tremendous depths of these subjects that students can only find purposefully, at a specialized school or with classical curriculum at home. I realized that my love for the visual arts now had competition in my avid learner’s heart. Around this time I turned my focus from a liberal arts college in Purcellville, Virginia to elsewhere. At a college convention I met several ambassadors of University of Dallas, a private Catholic institution in Irving, Texas. I recall that my interest in UD mounted the more I learned about it. They offered a Rome program during Sophomore year, an intensive “Core” curriculum that focused on the Classical foundation of learning—requiring all freshmen and sophomores to take a list of courses ranging from Literary Tradition to Philosophy to Astronomy. All of these subjects form the basis for a more concentrated major during the two years as upperclassmen. I relished the prospects offered at University of Dallas. It fit me perfectly. And yet, a small nagging voice persisted to whisper in the back of my head, “Wait! What about Art school? What about an exclusive art education?” That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t obtain an art education at UD. They rank as having one of the top traditional art programs in the nation, which I planned to participate in should I choose UD.
As the summer before my Senior year opened, I decided to sign up for a 2D and 3D design and animation camp at the Art Institute of Dallas. My heart fluttered nervously whenever I thought of experiencing a taste of an art student’s life. In depth anatomy and design courses. High tech drawing equipment and digital tablets. I tempted myself with this shining dream. Of course, none of this is to undermine the delight of creativity, traditional and digital. Anyone with a passion for art possesses such a dream, to delve into this fervency to create, design, and dazzle others with mind-blowing visuals. I believe that all artists would love the chance to explore and develop their artistic skills at such a school. The courses at these universities can be invaluable, doubtlessly, to someone desiring to improve their abilities. Yet, I experienced a dilemma, as I still remembered the bliss of walking around the vibrant campus of University of Dallas, meeting people who enthusiastically pursued their faith and education. When I joined the other kids at the Art Institute’s camp, I found myself facing an entirely different atmosphere. Most of the kids here came from secular public school, lived secular, godless lives, and although they too shared a passion for the arts, I found it difficult to relate to them on a spiritual and intellectual level as their interests diverged from mine dramatically. Discouraged, I spent my first day hoping it would get better, that I would enjoy myself more at this idealized art camp. Yet, as the week progressed during my stay at the camp, I noticed that the teens at my camp bodily represented the mindset of liberal social media sites such as Tumblr. Their attitudes created a barrier between themselves and anyone who might possibly not share their same interests, worldview, or lifestyle. Their unwelcoming demeanors estranged me and I could hardly feel safe or comfortable when the camp leaders expressed viewpoints of homosexual lifestyles and other issues that diametrically oppose my Biblical standards. All in all, by the time Friday arrived, I was more than ready to leave the Art Institute with my parents. With a mixture of disappointment and relief I realized that I did not belong at the Art Institute or anywhere else like it.
The lure of an exclusively art-focused schedule during my university years has not failed to entice me with its promising tastefulness. Although the Core Curriculum at University of Dallas integrated a medley of subjects that I’d discovered a growing passion for within myself, Art school assumed the forefront focus in my mind as I idealized possibly attending a university like Savannah College of Art and Design, or Parsons Art and Design in NYC. These schools, as well as CalArts in San Francisco, are known for their top-notch courses and degrees, from which emerge many respected animators, visual developers, character designers, and story-boarders who are now working for corporations such as Disney and Pixar. As someone prone to idealism, I began to envision the promise of such schools. Until I visited the Art Institute of Dallas, another highly respected visual arts academy, did I obtain a clearer picture of the dark side of these campuses. However, any budding artist will desire courses like 2D and 3D design, anatomy, character design, visual development, and more. I nursed my dissatisfaction with my own situation and my parents’ expressed suspicions of such colleges. But they pointed out that SCAD and CalArts hardly provide a well-rounded education as does University of Dallas. They do not develop every part of the mind—the only side of my brain that would be served would be the right side—while the left side of the brain would languish in neglect. As aggravating as it was, I found myself agreeing with them. Why? University of Dallas pushes students to their limits, as they have campaigned, as I have seen by simply sitting in on the classes. Not only does this school challenge you in your area of study, but it also compels you to study hard in other areas, such as mathematics, the sciences, theology, history, philosophy, economics, and history. Sure, at a place like CalArts you are receiving a degree for extremely specialized courses throughout your four year tenure, but what beyond that? You are not exploring the great works, you are not discussing Plato’s The Cave, nor delving into the Rhetoric of the Bible. In fact, I’m pretty sure that St. Augustine’s Confessions would never arise in any discussion at one of those secular art universities.
So, I reached the verdict. As difficult as it proved to surrender my desire to attend SCAD, or CalArts, or a similar school, discussions with my parents and my summer camp experience led me to a final conclusion. I would not be abandoning my artistic ambitions. No, I would instead pursue them in the safter, Christian environment at University of Dallas, an institution that promotes a love of learning, an appreciation of the past masterpieces while integrated with the Catholic intellectual tradition that so intrigued me during my semester at Founders Classical Academy. I relinquished my idealistic image of what art school would be like and adopted a more realistic mindset. Once I finished the foundations of my education that University of Dallas would supply, I would delve in deeper in the areas that remained in need of development. Perhaps even graduate school at one of those art universities would become an option. But in the meantime, I determined to surround myself with like-minded people who would challenge me to mature in my mind and soul, not merely in the right side of my brain.