You don’t need permission. You need to be good and you need to do the work.
I don’t follow rules well. I don’t do illegal shit, I just don’t like to be told what to do or how to do something when I have my own ideas and opinions. This is exactly why I got into the college I did. I am not going to debate the ranking of Fine Art Colleges, in 1992, the Maryland Institute College of Art was considered by many to be the top fine arts college in the US. Sorry if you don’t agree with the ranking, I don’t care and it has no bearing on what I have to say. In 1992, I was accepted into this prestigious college’s fine arts program. In 1992, I had never taken an art class in my life to date.
How do you get into the MIT of art schools with zero education? You impress upon the institution your desire, demonstrate your skill, and be relentless.
My aunt was a high school art teacher out on Long Island. She told me about MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). She was pretty sure I had no chance to get in but she knew somebody in admissions I could speak to. I took the number and got to work.
The high school I went to was a private Catholic institution that specialized in graduating young men to prestigious institutions. Nobody ever went to art school or even made an attempt before me. My guidance counselor was an old Christian Brother who I saw once and was not so politely told good luck, you are on your own. OK, so I have to do the work and handle my own stuff.
I had a name to talk to and a school to apply to. With no help from anyone at all, I went and applied to MICA. This lead to an invitation to tour the school and have an interview. I got the interview out of curiosity more than anything. I was overqualified in academics and had zero formal art training. My application was incomplete and not up to their standards but something in my essay piqued an interest.
I was told to come down with a portfolio of my work. I didn’t know what that was. They wanted pictures, slides, and a collection of drawings to show my ability. I didn’t know this, so I packed my 1988 Jeep Wrangler with all the art I could stuff in it and drove to Baltimore.
I took a short tour of the campus which was followed by a trip to the admission office. Most people are interviewed by staff. I got a meeting with the head of admissions. I can’t remember the woman’s name but I remember the meeting well. She asked me point blank, why are you here? I explained to her my history with art and how I have been independently creating things for as long as I could remember. She listened, then she asked for my portfolio. I said it was outside in my car. She asked me to go get it. I had to explain that my car was basically my portfolio.
The head of admissions took me in stride. She laughed a bit and asked for me to pull my car up in front of the school so she could take a look at what I had with me. I pulled up my Jeep and unloaded my work right on the front lawn of the admission building. I went thru everything I brought and explained myself in detail.
After our discussion about my work, we parted company with little to no answer as to where I stood. I headed home to NJ and went back to normal high school life. I have to add here that I didn’t apply anywhere else. If I didn’t get into MICA, I had no backup. I felt strongly that it was MICA or nothing for me.
About 2 weeks after my interview I got a letter. I was not accepted, but I also was not rejected. If I agreed to attend summer school at MICA and got a B average, I would be accepted as a student in the Fall! I did go to summer session where I got an A in all courses and I was fully accepted into MICA’s Fine Arts Program.
If I played by the rules, I would never have gotten in. If I didn’t believe in myself, I never would have attempted to apply, and if I was not relentless in my pursuit – I would have quit before I got to where I wanted to be.
If you know you have the talent and skill plus you are willing and able to do the work, don’t let the social megaphone stop you. Don’t let anything stop you. Do the things you know you were born to do and live according to your purpose, not the purpose the world has labeled you to have.
Forget the rules because there is really only one; you be you.