Art major perseveres through hardships, considers Pratt Institute

April 23, 2016 — by Elizabeth Lee and Katherine Zhou

This is one of the pieces of art that Michelle Wang submitted in her portfolio.

Senior Michelle Wang shares story on how she plans to become an Art major.

Last summer, senior Michelle Wang woke up at 9 a.m. most days and headed straight to the art studio. She labored all day: six hours working on charcoal, graphite, technique and composition; two and a half hours at another studio working with watercolors, acrylic paints and color pencils; then several more hours completing her online art history class assignments and studying 3D sculpture and conceptual art. Her day ended as late as 11 p.m.

Art has been Wang’s passion for years. With a “wild imagination,” she would draw and paint all day as a child. Her parents would notice her examining textures at a clothing store for hours as a toddler. In elementary school, the only class Wang loved was art.

But growing up in the Silicon Valley, where many students pursue STEM-related field, hasn’t been easy. Her family is filled with mathematicians, engineers and scientists, many of them pressuring Wang to put down the paintbrush and take up a more practical interest.

“I was pretty much set on doing anything but art,” Wang said. “I didn’t take Studio Art until my junior year in high school, but during that time, I was trying to get myself away from the arts. I think the main issue was that I was insecure about pursuing art.”

Wang’s decision to fully embrace art was influenced by her experience at school. Taking “all of the wrong classes” led to a drop in her confidence until she felt that she had lost her passion for school.

“I felt like a huge failure, and honestly, my confidence fell to an all-time low,” Wang said. “It’s really scary when you’re in [a] position when something doesn't go your way no matter how hard you try to make it work.”

As she became more serious about art as a career last year, Wang knew she had to isolate herself from others, since it was crucial for her to designate the majority of her time and focus to having her portfolio perfected.

Wang’s portfolio, which she dedicated hundreds of hours on, features over 20 pieces of artwork, most of which are 3D, video and conceptual works.

Despite having sore hands from art classes each day and an underwhelming social life, she found the experience to be rewarding — and schools have been impressed, too. She has been accepted into several schools, including University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Southern California (USC) and Pratt Institute. Wang is leaning toward attending Pratt Institute for its industrial design program that includes product design, furniture exhibition design and more.  

By attending Pratt Institute, Wang hopes to find unique opportunities, such as working as an art director or  member of the product design team for companies like Nike, Ikea, Apple or Google.

“I feel like [Pratt is] a place where I can really prosper,” Wang said. “A really big part [of my long-term goal] is making sure that I went to college in New York because it would be a dream to live in a place that is the center of the arts.”

Even though Wang said it may seem unusual for one to consider Pratt over more well-known schools like UCLA and USC, Wang said that through her experience, she learned it’s usually best to take her own path.

In order to meet other artists and be inspired to create unique works, Wang said that she would like to study abroad in Europe after a year or two of school in New York and possibly take a gap year in Japan as well.

Though Wang’s parents had pressured her into pursuing a career in STEM, once they knew that art was what Wang enjoyed,  they began to show immense support for her. Wang is thankful they were financially and emotionally supportive of her passion through the years.

Knowing that she has always had high expectations for herself, Wang’s parents often tried to prevent her from being too hard on herself. They even offered to take her out to dinner and on small trips to San Francisco to help her through her stress.

To those who want to major in art, Wang said that it is important to focus on your true passions, and to be willing to make your dreams happen under any circumstances.

Getting into the programs that I got into wasn’t easy, and I don’t take it for granted,” Wang said. “In the end, you just have to stay true to yourself, work your hardest, and with patience, everything starts coming along.”


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