I Wish I Had Known a School like The Chicago Academy for the Arts
Tim Butler, Director of Marketing and Communications
Each morning when I walk into The Chicago Academy for the Arts, I join an extraordinary place where innovation and creation feel tangible and alive. I am part of a one-of-a-kind community of artists and thinkers, students and faculty, that impress me more with each passing week. It truly feels like a place like no other, and one I wish I could have experienced earlier in my life.
I attended a good public high school in the suburbs of New York City and received a traditional high school education. I took a typical schedule of classes, earned good grades, and eventually was accepted to college. However, I never felt as if I needed to do more than what was prescribed by my school’s curriculum. Furthermore, I wasn’t inspired to do so. There were few opportunities to pursue artistic disciplines and develop passions (though I played music on my own time), and the benefit of committing to extracurricular activities was murky outside of its aid to college applications.
In college, I approached the institution with similar apathy. While I loved my time at Miami University in Ohio, academically I still could not abandon the mindset that the only goal was to graduate with a decent GPA. I couldn’t think differently about learning; I couldn’t think about my future with confidence.
I believe this lethargy plagues young students, as it did I, because of four critical attributes that routine education systems often fail to foster: skill, passion, confidence, and awareness. What you don’t realize when you are young and green is how valuable it is to possess these qualities. Sure, I left college competent at a number of things, but unaware of any particular passion. I lacked confidence in my professional future and I certainly was unsure of how to get there.
At The Academy, students are given time to develop and nurture artistic and academic passions at a young age, and even fail at them. Students are held to high standards and rigorous workloads, but learning never stops at earning the grade. While students develop skills and a passion for their art, they are continuously encouraged to be aware of purpose. Academy students have consciously decided to pursue specific goals. Many of my peers did not focus their studies until later in their university years or, unfortunately, after starting and leaving their first (or third) job. Most are still trying. Students at The Academy posses a work ethic, drive, and purpose I could not have imagined when I was 16 years old. Some students commute hours every day just to be here refining their talents and building their skills.
This approach results in Academy graduates who are truly prepared to enter the professional world, and who have developed a keen awareness of what they want for their futures. They understand that my path - solely earning good grades and a degree - does not set one apart. They realize that what makes someone successful is their passion, their skill, and the confidence to use these qualities. Their passion may adjust, change, or be abandoned entirely - just like anybody else. But the difference is that Academy students will know how to recognize a passion again, and will know the steps they must take to turn it into a reality.
I wish I had known a school like The Chicago Academy for the Arts.