Storyboard: Gail Howland

It takes a lot of work that’s not creative to be a creative

When I told my colleagues that I was considering getting my second degree at ArtCenter College of Design, some of them couldn’t quite wrap their head around the concept. They were familiar with ArtCenter and were aware of its reputation of having a demanding standard along with an intense curriculum. I certainly don’t remember having as heavy a workload during my undergraduate tenure at Berkeley.

There’s a reason that students come from all over the country to attend classes here. And it's not just rigor for the sake of rigor alone—far from it. Rather, it is this simple fact: when you leave ArtCenter, you feel like you can do anything—because, in a way, you can.

Looking back, like so many of my peers who eventually ended up at ArtCenter, the seeds for my life as a creative were planted early. I knew I wasn’t interested in science or math—it was performing and the world of visual arts that fascinated me. It took a while to figure out what I was good at. I began studying ballet at a young age and eventually majored in Art History, both passions that I continue to explore to this day. After graduation, I came to discover what would be my defining passion and creative preoccupation: photography. I began by taking images of artists on stage before eventually focusing my concentration on portraiture. The idea that this could be a viable career option hadn’t occurred to me yet—it was initially a creative endeavor that I simply felt compelled to participate in.

ArtCenter taught me there was a career in photography. The College also provided a sort of meeting ground where I could interact with like-minded individuals who shared my same creative priorities and preoccupations. Over the years, one of my greatest joys has been being connected with the amazing folks who make up our alumni population. To call myself lucky in this regard would be an understatement.

Currently, I’m faculty in the ArtCenter for Kids program where I have been teaching black-and-white photography to children ages 10–14. It’s an incredible process to witness these young students, many of whom are operating from a place of pure artistic creation. They’re not old enough yet to know what the world thinks of them or their art, and thus, that preconception doesn’t color the work itself. Proper schooling and the quote-unquote ‘way to do things’ take a backseat to imagination and outside-the-box thinking.

The work they produce is authentic and original. It affects my own photography just to be around them. To see a child enter a classroom with a passing curiosity about photography and leave with an awareness of what they are seeing as they compose within a camera viewfinder is truly special. That child may never forget that skill set, and it may go on to inform the rest of their life as a creative as well as a human being.  

Ultimately, it takes a lot of non-creative work to be a creative. Taking an art class should be as essential as taking a math or science class because it teaches you how to build a perspective. Giving these young people the tool kit necessary to forge their own creative point of view is truly gratifying. That same sensation I experienced all those years ago—that feeling that I could do anything—is something I see blossoming in the minds of my students, day in and day out. I hope you will consider supporting ArtCenter so these young artists may continue developing their creative perspectives. 

Gail Howland
BFA 2004 Photography 
Faculty, ArtCenter for Kids

When you leave ArtCenter, you feel like you can do anything - because in a way, you can.

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