Opinion | Carissa Antonia

Why this millennial is choosing art school

19th Century Woman, by Carissa Antonia; acrylic and water color.
19th Century Woman, by Carissa Antonia; acrylic and water color.

In a couple weeks, I’ll be heading off to art school to learn how to be the best creator I can be. After those four years I have absolutely no clue what I want to do, except that it has to involve art.

Unlike most people in my graduating class at Greater Lawrence Technical School, I don’t have an end goal or a dream job that I want. Of course I want to be successful, but I don’t know what specifically I want to be successful doing. That’s why, when I got the question of “Why art school?” almost every day of my life, I would always come up with a non-answer answer. My regular response would be: “Well, if I don’t do it now, I feel like I’ll never do it.” Then I would be met with skepticism — and a look as if they thought I would be living in my parents’ basement until I’m 40.

The real answer is simple and deeply personal. Art is what I love. Ever since I was young, drawing was something I did to pass the time and to get out of what I was feeling. If I was sad, I would draw; if I was happy, I would draw. It was how I coped with what was going on around me. It wasn’t until freshman year of high school that I thought art could be something I could do for a living. This thought didn’t come about because I was inspired by someone. In fact, most teachers and grown-ups in my life discouraged my dream. One art teacher I had even told me that I was a disappointment, that “art wasn’t for me,” and that I should pick another hobby.


It was just me painting all by my lonesome, happy as can be, and then me being inspired by my own happiness. It was then that I first thought about going to art school — and after that, I didn’t think about going anywhere else. I knew that my future happiness was a priority for me, and I had seen too many adults unhappy in their jobs.

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I know it’s a risk, but to me, the real risk is sacrificing my happiness. I don’t want to look back on my life and think what would have happened if I followed my dreams. I want to live my dreams, not just daydream about them.

Maybe that’s very millennial, but it’s not just me. One of my soon-to-be classmates at New Hampshire Institute of Art told me she chose to go to art school and take the risk because of happiness as well. She said that her art helped her through mental illness and bullying, and it was the only thing that made her truly happy in the most difficult of times. Even my brother: He gave up going to a plastic engineering program to go to school for music instead. When I asked him why, he said that “happiness is my top priority” and that doing music is what makes him truly happy.

We millennials who are pursuing our passions know we are taking a risk, but we also know that it’s the right choice for us. I look forward to my future in the art world. I can’t wait to meet it.

Carissa Antonia, a 2017 graduate of Greater Lawrence Technical School, starts New Hampshire Institute of Art later this month.