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The Dark Side of Art School

The dark side of art school is revealed. The side with mould, stress, competition, waste accumulation and inevitable failure.

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Disclaimer: The good parts of art school and being an artist far outweigh the negatives. It is 100% certainly worth it to follow your artistic passions. 

(Playlist to listen to while reading this blog)

I am usually the most positive person on planet Earth. I smile on a cloudy day and see the best in everything. But some worms have crawled under my fingernails, and I am a grumpy storm cloud. Today I will reveal the dark side of life at the Academy of Fine Arts. 

Mould Growing in the Kitchen

Art students are expected to be messy. Mess is an inevitable ingredient of art. But the kitchen is a disaster. Furry things are growing in the fridges! Two things frustrate me the most. Firstly, our university has employed cleaners who are usually non-Finnish. It is incredibly disrespectful to the cleaners that students leave rubbish and dirty dishes on the tables and counters. 

Secondly, when the dishwasher is full and clean, no one will empty it for a long time (I have already emptied it many times). Usually, the cycle goes that someone will put a dirty dish with the clean dishes, and then it becomes a mix. 


The energy of competition in the university is intangible and inescapable. I have said and written before that the university is a non-competitive environment. But somehow, the rivalry is still filling the air. Especially around the time of the final shows, everyone is striving. If you exhibit, you have value. If you are accepted for a residency or a grant, you have value. If you are busy, you have value. The competition is not spoken about, it is just there. 

Sense of Doom After Graduation

A dreadful future scenario: After graduation, I will be working as a waitress in a restaurant again, or cycling for wolt. I will mention to a colleague, ‘oh yeah, I studied a Masters of Fine Art.’ There will probably be no success, only struggles and hunger. Then, working as an artist it is a constant struggle with no sense of security. The looming sense of not being good enough haunts every work. How will you feed yourself? 

Learning Finnish is Impossible and Will Drain Your Energy

The possibility of becoming fluent in Finnish has the same chance as a deep sea squid reaching the moon. It is impossible. Finnish is so valuable to learn. Especially if you want to stay in Finland. However, the process is ridiculously long and challenging. 

In the process of learning Finnish, my time and energy have been consumed instead of being spent on Art. Once I started attending classes in Finnish, I received less information because I didn’t fully understand it. While writing my thesis in Finnish it was very slow, and I am more stupid in my second language. My heart has been crushed over and over again, realizing that I may never be as good as I dream. 

Poor Recycling Leads to Planetary Destruction

Shabby recycling practice is not the only thing in art school that is destroying the planetary ecosystem. Toxic waste, unethical material sources, and high electricity consumption also contribute. Despite being in a country known for its environmental consciousness and having eight different types of rubbish bins, students still put paper with plastic. 

Art is Bad

Art sucks. Why is there so much bad art? In galleries, museums, and workshops, I have come face to face with tonnes of bad art. The huge volume of poorly executed pieces makes me question the purpose of art itself. Are artists generating waste? 

Topics are Intense

When thinking about art school I thought I would learn about colors and shapes. But the topics of slavery, capitalism, colonial history, animal cruelty, the climate crisis, war, and violence come up with force over and over again. It is heavy, like a metal pterodactyl that will never release its talons’ grip. These heavy knowings are a relentless emotional assault, leaving me crying and crying after a lecture, hoping for a hug that will never come and overwhelmed with the weight of our world. 

Poisonous Stress

Why does an artist always leave things until the last minute? Why is everyone so busy? ​​Stress leaks and accumulates around the art university like a toxic fog. Deadlines loom ominously, and the pressure to produce can be suffocating. The university’s high expectations and society’s structures that support individuals’ stress fuel the stress cycles. Stress feels like the collapsing of everything near me and a destitute, unavoidable failure that never goes away. It drains the joy from creation, leaving behind exhaustion, confusion, and doubt. The relentless busyness, the endless tasks, and the fear of failure haunt us all. Turning the creative process into a relentless grind; poisoning the brain with cortisol. 


In the process of meaning-making, waste is an inevitable byproduct. Artworks pile up, unfinished projects clutter every corner, and sketchbooks stack like forgotten towers. The physical remnants of our efforts—scraps of paper, dried paint, test pieces, broken tools—accumulate like the ghosts of abandoned dreams. Every course will lead to the accumulation of some combobulation of stuff. Each piece of waste is a testament to our struggle, a reminder that the pursuit of art often leaves a trail of discarded fragments in its wake. It’s an overwhelming, suffocating mess that mirrors the turmoil within. At first, you will have your desk with a cute little cactus. Like the desert closing in on an oasis, by the end of your first year, there will barely be enough room to stand in your studio. Very little will ever be sold or see the light of day. 

If you think you can handle the dark side of art school, then apply and step through the door.

Life of an art student

In this blog, Uniarts Helsinki students share their experiences as art students from different academies and perspectives, in their own words. If you want to learn even more regarding studying and student life in Uniarts and Helsinki, you can ask directly from our student ambassadors.

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