My Continuing Studies Experience So Far

After I finished my BFA in Drawing and Painting at OCAD University in 2018, I felt lost. There were no more classes to go to, no strict deadlines, and no industry professionals that I could easily access. It felt a little daunting - now, almost everything was all up to me. 

So my during my first year out of school, I forced myself to learn as much as possible, while working full time and expanding my art practice. I went to artist talks, exhibition openings; became a member of a few local museums/galleries, and read tons of art-based books. This freedom in knowledge seeking allowed me to become more curious in mediums outside my realm. I no longer had the bindings of being a Drawing & Painting student - I could study whatever I wanted - which eventually lead me to textiles, but that is a different story. 

So my educational adventure was going great, but after several months I started to burn myself out. My schedule was chaotic. I would work over 40 hours a week and go to two to three openings, plus an artist talk if it was available - then try to study, make art and have a social life when I got home. This schedule was not going to be sustainable, and I didn’t know what to do about it. 

When I was researching for schools to apply to for my Masters, and I happened to stumble upon OCAD’s continuing studies program. I was drawn in by the diverse certificates they offered, and the fact that they were on a familiar campus. So I enrolled in the Business Skills for Creative Professionals Certificate, and here I am now halfway through the 5-credit based program. 

I started my continuing studies adventure back in September 2019 and took two courses over the fall semester: Writing Skills for Visual Artists, and Professional Practice for Emerging Artists. They ranged from 4 weeks to 6 weeks in length and were both 3-hour long class sessions. The writing course was an intense workshop where you truly get out what you put into it. There was a list of words never to use, examples of where to find excellent writing, and what to do when you are stuck. It pushed my writing and made me comfortable with composing short artist statements for grants, proposals, and much more.

 The other course: Professional Practice for Emerging Artists, focused on how to get yourself into the artist community when you are an emerging artist, and where/what to look for in the opportunities that arise. This course involved field trips, guest speakers, and a focus on building your online presence. It was less demanding than the previous session, however, the open class discussions were a big plus in the learning experience. 

Currently, I am taking my first course of the winter semester: Collecting Contemporary Art, so stay tuned for a recap in a few months when I finish my certificate. 

If these courses don’t intrigue you, there is a total of 18 courses that go to my certificate alone. Just keep in mind that they are not always available - so you might have to wait until next season to find that perfect class. However, they do give you up to 3 years to complete the certificate - so you can wait until that class you have your eye on opens up. 

Overall, I highly recommend taking continuing studies courses. They have pushed my skills to new places, connected me with amazing people that I would not have met otherwise, and furthered my resources to attain new knowledge. This scheduled time to study on focused topics opened up time in my week to explore other avenues. I am still going to openings, artist talks, etc. but I don’t feel burned out anymore. Plus, I’ve been able to bounce/explore new ideas for the work off my instructors, and their feedback has always been constructive. So if you are on edge, take one course to start - you can still apply for the certificate later - and if you do, let me know what courses you picked! Maybe I’ll even see you in class!

- Sarah Zanchetta

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