Straight outta high school, straight outta the cage that NCEA has put us “secondary school artists” in. Coming from a school in East Auckland with 350 kids in our year, there were 20 kids in our art class, three of us ended up going to art school. That is, only 0.8% of high school students ending up at art school, me being one of them.

Statistically, I was a minority for doing so much art in high school, which realistically speaking, wasn’t that bad. Especially when you’ve always imagined yourself as ‘the special art kid.” I had been living in a fantasy, I wear the crown of “the kid who does three art subjects” as I walk in slow-motion to our tiny visual arts department.

But ELAM is different. Everyone was that kid. I was that kid. Even our tutors were that kid. What do I do now? Standing in front of the elite art school that prides itself as the country’s leading school of contemporary arts, I was so scared but definitely excited, here goes my journey of self doubting and enlightening.

 

Am I talented enough?

One of the first freshers’ anxiety I had, was the terror of myself soon to be compared. Am I talented enough to compete with these kids?

I came to a quick realisation after our very first creative thinking project that these kids really were talented, like really talented. BUT, we are also all very different to each other, and these kids work hard, like really hard. Talent was out of the question, it’s something that shouldn’t be measured. We all had our very individual voices, and of course, very different practises. Elam was made for this. Throughout the project, almost all of us were heard and encouraged to speak up. In other words, don’t worry about talent. Let’s be honest, talent was something we made up to make our behind-the-scene hard work seem easy. During an exhibition, the ones who would yell to the artist, “WOW! YOU’RE SO TALENTED!!” were usually the ones who thought art making was done with a stroke of a brush, while in fact the artist had spent a good few months working like a total maniac. Talented? Who me? Nah, I just paint for 20 hours a week.

 

Am I gonna make friends?

Same old question, who am I gonna have lunch with? Well in my case this doesn’t really matter, cause I’d just go next door to Unihall to eat my lunch. But seriously, my first impression of these edgy art kids was nothing but admiration and intimidation. How am I gonna become friends with them? In the same class for a good four years? Well, awkward conversations paid off. These fine arts kids were really nice, too nice to be real almost. Looking back at it now, it’s really all just a huge blur how I ended up with this group of Elam friends I have right now. I have friends from all year levels at Elam, and I soon realised that it’s so easy to make connections at an art school like Elam, when everyone’s so god damn nice. So art kids do a lot of critique sessions, which we call crits. And crits are essential to your art making, it’s also one of the easiest way for you to make friends across groups. Elam kids really just wanna hear about others’ opinions and thoughts on their art, therefore they invite others to do crit with them, it can be as simple as ‘hey come look at this new cool thing I made,’ and boom, friendship established.

 

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Alex Su

Rice is my culture, and art is my game.

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