By Colleen Clark
It’s not hard to tell when you’ve stepped onto an art school campus. When you gather hundreds of artists who are passionate about expressing themselves as diversely as possible, you’re gonna see some weird stuff. This might be my favorite thing about being on campus; I never have to worry about having the weirdest outfit in the room. And, chances are, whoever does have the weirdest outfit is totally rocking it! That being said, there are a few recurring types of people you run into time and time again. The artist culture tends to repeat patterns of behavior. So, without stereotyping or making fun (because this community wouldn’t be the same without any of these people), let’s go through the eleven most common people you might run into at CCAD:
1. The Guitarist/Ukulele(ist?)/Performing Artist Giving a Free Show
This one’s a pretty standard college trope. Most people are familiar with that guy who sings at everyone walking by, brings his guitar everywhere he goes, and always looks like he is contemplating the complexities of the universe as he furrows his brow and strums along underneath a shady tree. Some people love it and swoon, and some people are uncomfortable with the extroversion, but he will never stop. He will always be there as long as college exists, as predictable as textbook fees or paint stains on your new jeans.
A lot of the time at art school, this guitar guy will also be accompanied by a performance artist. These artists tend to use public spaces to act out plays, dances, interactive sculptures, screaming matches… you name it. Between walking to class and grabbing lunch, you can might witness or get to participate in a free piece of interpretive dance. You never know.
2. The Walking Sculpture
With hundreds of talented fine artists and fashion students around me, I get to witness new pieces of art literally walking past me every day. We are all used to seeing crazy art wherever we go, so that means that people can go full on Gaga without the same judgment they would receive anywhere else. Sometimes people make headpieces out of plaster, glue fabric to their clothes, paint their own designs onto t-shirts, or just look super rad all the time. There’s nothing like seeing the confidence of someone walking to class, confidently strutting their newest creation on their own body. Whenever a comic or sci-fi convention is in town, students will walk around campus in their intricate costumes, and seeing them is like stepping into a dreamworld!
3. The Artist Straddling the Line Between Crazy and Genius
Everyone is their own brand of weird. You can be the weirdest person in your high school and then come to CCAD and be the most straight-laced one in the room! Sometimes, a few people stand out as just a little more eccentric than others. Maybe they’re the ones performing on the quad, or they make giant, beautiful paintings, and they’re probably always hyped up on caffeine with big, lofty dreams. This student probably has constant charcoal under his or her fingernails, but once you see what that charcoal can do on paper, you never want them to change.
4. The Deep, Philosophizing Smokers
At every class break, when you step outside, you’ll probably have a few enlightening conversations with these ones. Whether you smoke or not, you can learn a lot just by hanging around outside with them. These guys wear a lot of leather jackets and boots and know a lot of stuff about the most popular music (which bands are cool now and which ones USED to be cool before they got too popular) and galleries nearby. They will have a lot to say about why so-and-so’s show lacked a certain substance, or how no art can survive without true concept and soul.
5. The One Who Must Be a Wizard (Because They Have Their Life Together)
Perhaps the most enviable of all the types, this person is as elusive as she is talented at keeping it all together. She has three jobs and an internship, and she’s the top of the class. Her hair is always curled to perfection, her nails always manicured, her face always fresh and clean and free of graphite streaks. She always has a fully charged laptop, and if you ask her what she does, she can pull up her well-kept website or portfolio and hand you a personally designed business card. Does she sleep? What does she eat? Does she own a pair of sweatpants? Does she actually manage to shower every single morning!? She might just lose it on the weekend. Or maybe she sold her soul to the devil. Either way, she will go far, and you will always wonder what her secret is, but she will never let you see her crack.
6. The Master of Disguise
There’s always that one girl who can somehow miraculously change her appearance drastically every single day. I have seen people with a new hair color every week, and I swear I’ve seen someone go from bald to having a full fro the very next day. You will see plenty of pink hair, blue hair, rainbow hair, half-shaved heads, mohawks, and pixie cuts all over campus, but this girl can not only somehow manage them all within a month, but she can pull all of them off. She seems to express herself best through her hair, and she could probably moonlight as a hairdresser at this point because of all the practice she’s had on her own locks! It’s a miracle she even still has hair left at the end of it, but even if she were bald, she’d rock that too.
7. The Invisible Master
Critiques are always scary. The worst is when you go into one thinking you did the best and then realizing that everyone else tried way harder than you. Sometimes that one person just happens to be this guy: the guy who you’ve never seen before but is somehow the most talented person in the room. Has he ever even been in the labs? Does he live on campus? Has he always been in your class? There is no way to know, because you will never see him outside of class again. He has secrets, and he will show up time and time again with the most beautiful work ever. Maybe he is Batman. Either way, he will be very successful. Try to befriend him and learn his ways!
8. The Patron Saint of Supplies
The patron saint of art supplies is constantly prepared. Really prepared. She always has a ruler, ink, paper towels, wet naps, a hammock, 10 types of paintbrushes, and a four-course meal with her. If she’s in your class, you will probably never bring your own materials, because you’ll start relying on her unfailing giving spirit to help you out. The thing is, she is so nice. She never fails to be generous. No one knows how she stores everything, but the running theory is that she borrowed a wizard’s magic to enchant her bag. Be sure to befriend her, but remember that you won’t have her after you graduate!
9. The Horror Aficionado
Whether or not you want to know, this guy will tell you everything he knows about ’60s to ’80s horror themes. He wears tons of scary patches on his coat, and his dorm room is buried in old comics. I know this sounds super specific, but trust me, this guy is at every art school. He’s probably studying illustration or animation to learn how to make cool zombie effects in movies. He is no doubt talented, because he obsesses over every shadow and detail and can tell you exactly what to do if a zombie apocalypse were to ever break out. Make sure you get on his good side for that exact reason: you never know when all the caffeine running through your classmates’ veins will make them snap, and this guy might be your only hope.
10. The Vampire
The Vampire never ever leaves the labs. You know for sure that she doesn’t sleep, because you don’t even think she owns a bed. She might not even eat either, it seems that she fully lives on coffee and paint fumes. She is probably super productive, but you’ve never seen much of her work because she is too intense to approach. You’re afraid that any sudden movements in her direction will scare her away. But you envy her work ethic anyway, and glance at her every once in a while to make sure she’s still breathing!
11. The Scary-Looking Dude with a Heart of Gold
Art school, and Columbus especially, is full of alternative culture. You’re probably in the minority if you don’t have any tattoos or piercings. Still, a big guy with tons of skulls and holes in his face can look a little intimidating at first glance. No fear though, because most likely, he is just a huge softie. I can’t even count how many people I’ve met that act sugary sweet but dress like they’ll punch me. Maybe it’s the only way they can express their scarier side? Either way, they are my favorite people to be around, and they are a great example of defying stereotypes.
It can be really tempting to put people in categories as a way to deal with each others differences, but the coolest thing about being in an art school environment is that you are around those differences 24/7. No one fits cleanly into any stereotype, and you will find time and time again that every single person can teach you something and defy expectations. So get out there and discover where you fit in.
Colleen Clark is a CCAD senior majoring in Illustration who enjoys looking at photos of dogs online, following NBC comedy series (specifically anything involving Tina Fey), and sharing her art and thoughts through her online blog.
The Life at CCAD blog brings prospective students and their families into ongoing conversation with CCAD students, admissions counselors, and financial aid staff—including occasional visits from other members of the CCAD family.