"Weird mohawk. And why are those guys wearing dresses?" These may sound like people that most would try to avoid, but at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design these are students you run into every day. After a while, they start to seem normal.
I, like many, am guilty of judging these young adults who stand out in a typical crowd. When I first walked into this college, my eyes were filled with bright colors and strange looks. I thought, Why are these people staring at me when they're the ones who look weird? I did not have the time to get to know them better, and didn't really care.
At the beginning of the year, I met Garrett, a student at MCAD. He is one of those who, in my opinion, stands out. He has long black hair, a goatee, and is a size that could easily frighten you. When I asked what he would like to change about how others see him, he said, "People always think I am big and mean but really I'm not."
Garrett is not very different from other young men. He attends classes during the week and has fun on weekends. He enjoys video games, movies and hanging out with friends. He also likes to work out, but going to art school reduces his ability to do this.
When some think of art school, they think it is an easy way to get by and that only "freaks" attend. When I asked Garrett, who attends MCAD, about applying to art school, he said, "We have a portfolio review where we must meet certain requirements and also show we've maintained a decent GPA." You also have to submit a transcript and an ACT or SAT score. If you enter with a grade point average below a C, you're put on academic probation. If your GPA consistently fails to meet their expectations, you can be expelled. This ensures that only the most dedicated students have the opportunity to fulfill their artistic dreams.
I asked Garret about the differences between art college and another college like the University of Minnesota. "Here, we are not required to take classes like math or science, but we do take similar general courses, which include writing and history. All the mandatory classes has some connection to art," he explained.
I wondered what Garrett's first impression of the students had been, and he said, "I thought most looked normal, but some did look odd. But I'm used to it now; it's not such a big deal." When outsiders enter this college, they will probably think everyone is weird, and dress inappropriately. Garrett added, "Many people look different because they do not want to look like everyone else, and so are trying to be creative with their looks." They are not trying to give others a bad impression, they are just setting themselves outside the norm.
Isn't it true that when little children are at the mall with their parents, they are told to stay away from the scary-looking guy? Or, that the older generation makes rude comments about what our society is becoming? Then again, in school we are taught that society should accept people for who they are and give everyone a chance. Many do not give art students a chance because of how they look. They are just like everyone else trying to do something with their lives. The only difference is that they are only trying to impress themselves.
We have certain expectations of what everyone should look like and if someone chooses to dress or look different, he or she is labeled "different."
People need to stop worrying about what is "normal" and start recognizing others based on their personality and who they are.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.