Why you'll grow a thicker skin after going to MCAD

I'm at MCAD adjunct faculty member Ed Charbonneau's "Painting as Object" class, and standing with him and some students in the hallway.

The group is critiquing junior Kayleigh Fichten's work -- a painted canvas with some trash bags attached to it, and which is draped over a fixture instead of hung on the wall.

She tells the group:

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

"I was really wanting to dive back into painting, but still stay with the sculptural element."

Students throw out their thoughts: Why do you have it positioned this way? Why the trash bags? The trash bags are very haphazard ... I think it's about a landscape filled with trash. ... The definition of landscape has changed ...

It seems they're going beyond what even Fichten was intending, and she says, "I didn't think of that."

That segment was fairly mild, but I hear the critiques can get quite heated among students at MCAD. It seems students are either being critiqued or critiquing others' work at least once a week -- not counting all the informal sessions they have with friends throughout the day.

Senior Nadia Pereira tells me:

"You can't go to lunch without saying, 'Oh, what's that on the walls? (The impulse to critique) is always on."

That kind of immersion is just part of life here. Like students in many other disciplines, I'm sure I got away with my share of sub-par history papers and various projects. But here, if you're going to grow as an artist, you've got to keep your mind open and your skin a little thick. (Though they're generally constructive and supportive.)

Sophomore Katie Eckerson says that has helped her gain confidence in expressing her opinion. Still, she says:

"There's definitely an adjustment process. In high school, I was too shy or scared to say anything. But here, I've opened up."