What should I do this summer?
December 9, 2009 12:31 AM   Subscribe

What are some life-changing things I, as an art student, can spend my summer doing?

Here's a little background before I get to my real question.

I'm a 19 year old, gay male student double majoring in Art Education and Studio Art at the University of Central Florida. I'm finishing my sophomore year this semester. After growing increasingly frustrated with the college grind, I want to make some changes! I don't like the fact that I have to have a degree to do what I want to do. What do I want to do? I want to design avant-garde clothing and performances. (e.g. Lady Gaga, Of Montreal, and the Cremaster Cycle by Matthew Barney) Instead of dropping out of school, which I know isn't a very good idea, I just want to develop the parts of my life not directly related to school. I'm considering dropping the Art Education major, because while I want love to teach, I don't think my school's College of Education is right for me. Next semester I'm taking a minimum number of classes (12 credit hours) instead of my typical 15-17, so I'll have more time to create work that my current schedule doesn't allow.

What should I do this summer? I really want to do something that will provide me with amazing experience. I would love to live abroad, study abroad (I have languages bases in French and German.), get an internship, visit museums, or get an apprenticeship. Basically I want to do something with my summer that will change the direction of my life for the better.

Is there something I haven't even thought of? I'm supremely interested in everything related to design, art, and culture, so I'm open to almost anything!
posted by Paulefinch to Education (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Manual day labor. I'm completely serious. You'll see and do things you never really thought of before. Get some steel-toed boots and prepare for calluses.

Anyhow, it'll be provide a great anecdote or two for future cocktail parties.
posted by codswallop at 12:51 AM on December 9, 2009

Best answer: My kid's Awards Night speaker last year was a fantastic guy who designs clothes and was on the first season of Project Runway. He made the night. He was funny and spontaneous and totally disagreed with the principal's speech where he (the principal) had said, "find something you're good at and stick with it." Leigh said to find what you were passionate about, and follow your dream. "Oh, and if you want to learn how to design clothes, learn to SEW!"

So, I suggest, if you have time, and you don't already know how to, take a sewing class. Totally worth it. Then, taking a drafting class.
posted by b33j at 1:03 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bone up on your base knowledge. See if you can intern doing basic grip stuff for a theater or a show, and really ground yourself in the world of performance. You won't be able to design amazing pieces that will actually be produced and seen unless you understand the boundaries of your craft and how to work around (and with) them, from the bottom up. It's also a good time to really begin to network. Who knows? The guy who helps do lights at your community theater this year could be touring with someone fantastic in three years.
posted by Mizu at 1:14 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Travel, and preferably to the developing world.

I've lived all over Africa, sometimes spending entire weeks without seeing another white person, and, needless to say, the experience profoundly changed my world view. Northern Africa, say Egypt is doable for a first time visitor from a personal risk point of view, although more than a bit warm / hot during the summer.

If Africa seems a little intimidating I'd suggest you try India. I only lived in Bombay for about one month, but I had a totally wonderful time. Absolutely fantastic people, food, architecture, artistic influences abound, lots of different cultures and religions all mashed together in new and interesting ways.

I'm not sure where you're located - from your phrasing the United States seems a good bet - but while Africa or India would be a longer journey, you'd get far more out of this trip at your age than the "easy" route of backpacking about Europe for the summer (US ex-pat living in London speaking here).
posted by Mutant at 1:43 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'll put my vote in for study abroad. It really was pretty close to life-changing for me, because it showed me for the first time that I am pretty resourceful when left to my own devices. I still think about incredible things I experienced and learned about myself during that time almost on a daily basis. I did it during the summer too.
posted by Theloupgarou at 1:46 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not really sure if this fits what you're looking for, but why don't you find somewhere you can volunteer your talents? For example, a more impoverished neighbourhood that could do with a cool mural on some big wall somewhere.
posted by alon at 4:52 AM on December 9, 2009

You could also take German classes at a Goethe-Institut in Berlin? Berlin is one of the best cities for artsy people these days, far far cheaper than Paris. A sewing class might be an interesting way to meet locals too. heh

You could alternatively take French classes at the Alliance Francaise in Paris or Lyon, or learn Spanish in Spain or South America. I'd expect Alliance Francaise courses plus shared residence in Lyon would run about $1000 per month, maybe Paris would cost twice that much.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:23 AM on December 9, 2009

My suggestion is to combine some independent travel and "volunteer abroad" experience--for example, the Francophone Caribbean or West Africa would be a logical choice based on your skill set and background. As Mutant notes, firsthand experience with how "the other half lives" can dramatically change your perspective on things. It can also be a stepping stone toward ongoing interest in/involvement with immigrant communities in the U.S.
posted by drlith at 5:41 AM on December 9, 2009

Best answer: nthing travek abroad, Berlin is a fantastic suggestion. Hit up Couchsurfing and find some full-time crashers. My wife and I stayed 3 weeks with a group of 7 Berliners who hosted 10+ crashers a night. Incredible!

But as wonderful as abroad travel can be, working as a line cook in a crappy diner was equally as valuable. As was the drudgery of a real 9-5. Trying different things out can be really captivating. That day labor suggestion is great.

Alternately, maybe WWOOF is a good mid-way between those two? You trade labor for room & board at an organic farm. You do hard work, but you get your "cool life experience" points, too.
posted by GilloD at 6:03 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just read about a group called the Barnstormers in the December issue of Juxtapoz. Thought of this when I read your question. You might want to hook up with a group like that.

Also this blog seems right up your alley -- Make Art Like You Care
posted by cross_impact at 6:53 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rhode Island has an organization called New Urban Arts that works with urban youth to provide a space for arts, design, and creativity. It might be worth finding a place like that near where you are. A quick googling found this one, for example, in Orlando.

Alternatively, if you are interested in working with queer youth, find a local group that works on that issue and volunteer to offer arts classes or in some other way contribute to that community.
posted by lunit at 8:33 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Walk for a long time.
posted by past at 8:51 AM on December 9, 2009

Another vote for WWOOFing. I did it when I was your age, and would be lying if I said it didn't have a significant impact on my life and work ethic. Best part is that it didn't just benefit me!
posted by sunshinesky at 9:08 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is an amazing place on the border of thailand/burma that works to help orphans who are primarily burmese. These kids are often lured into the sex trade in thailand b/c they lack resources, safety nets and any kind of training vis a vis life skills. The organization is called Whispering Seed and they house volunteers and integrate them into the working community. If seeing the wretched poverty and dangerous circumstances which much of the world lives in doesn't change your perspective, little will.

FWIW this opportunity also engulfs what many others suggested: farm work, manual labor and the chance to use your language skills.
posted by memi at 11:14 AM on December 9, 2009

You could totally do an internship at a summer theater to explore more about performance- many provide housing. Some programs will let you focus in just wardrobe or scenery, and some aim to give you more of a general overview of the performance process from all angles. There are hundreds of options all over the US- google is your friend here to find one in any given region.
posted by alight at 11:45 AM on December 9, 2009

Best answer: Go do WWOOF. It sounds a bit whatever but it is cheap and you'll get to stay in a new, random place, meet new people and have to do things that are hard work, but are really quite satisfying. You'll remember it forever too.

I was 20 and in the Pyranees in France. Literally making hay, digging, driving tractors and I learnt to appreciate good red wine, cheeses and real garlic bread (crusty fresh bread with raw garlic rubbed all over it).

I also hog-roasted a pig all day for this family whilst they were at a wedding. They returned from the wedding and then whisked me away instantly back to the farm, they ate all the pig, I never even tasted it. I'd spent 5 hours cooking the thing. That taught me a lot about fairness and treating people right. Damn that pig looked good. I hope they're divorced now.

Basically, go travel.
posted by mooreeasyvibe at 3:22 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

« Older How do I save the planet with computers and stuff?...   |   Firefox opening all those startup tabs again and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.