From a sleepy town in Canada to New York City, artist Andy van Dinh made the big jump to pursue an MFA at Hunter College. In his inaugural piece for his series “Dynamic Artistry,” he speaks about the risk and reward of leaving home for uncertain pastures.
I’m not a well-established artist who makes lots of dough, and to be straight with you, I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I’m probably not an ideal person to be giving out advice on how to carry out a lucrative art career. All I know is that externalizing my thoughts into some visual existence is something I’ll always do whether I’m eating only a head of lettuce per day or drinking Dom for every meal (the latter option is preferred). The only things I can tell you are the experiences that I am currently going through and the life lessons I’m learning as a “so fresh and so clean art” graduate student in New York City.
I’ve lived 90% of my life in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It’s a very calm environment, and, for the most part, I felt like nothing happened there except for the Calgary Stampede (an annual cowboy-themed carnival that has been self-proclaimed as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”). What we do have going on is good food and the proximity to the mountains/nature (we have the freshest air, which is something I no longer have in NYC).
Calgary, Alberta, Canada by Andy Van Dinh
Before graduate school, I was working on and off as a construction worker for about eight years, and making art when I could find the time. Three years after receiving my BFA in 2012 I decided to apply for graduate school. My work was becoming stale and not progressing the way I wanted. Galleries weren’t taking me seriously without a master’s degree. I was also becoming complacent with life in Calgary, so I needed an excuse to leave and start fresh. I understand a masters in art is not necessary for one to create good art, or to be a successful artist. I’m not doing an MFA to polish up my skill set and current knowledge; I’m not doing it because I think it’s a golden ticket into the art world and the path to becoming a rich-ass artist (if I wanted lots of money from the get-go I would’ve picked another field). I am doing it to discover something while perfecting a craft, with the help of a community. The school doesn’t teach you how to survive as an artist. I’ll be learning all that on my own, but at least being in NYC will allow me to have access to opportunities.
“All I know is that externalizing my thoughts into some visual existence is something I’ll always do.”
Manhattan Skyline, 2015 by Andy Van Dinh
Do I doubt my decision? I have my days where I do. I made the risk already so it’s useless to wonder. Hunter is a good fit for me, and so is the city even though I am mortified of what NYC will throw at me next. Life’s been rough for about a minute, which you can follow in my upcoming adventures. At the same time though, I know I got this, so let’s get it!