Rejected art finds home in Without Collegiate Approval

After witnessing student artwork get rejected by organizations and faculty on campus, junior Ben Schifano created a solution: Without Collegiate Approval, an online collection of art where Emerson students can submit their art without fear of rejection.

WCA is a website with unlimited space for art. It is currently open for submissions, and the collection of art can be viewed on Facebook or at WithoutCollegiateApproval.com. Schifano said that for a piece to be turned away, it would have to be discriminatory or offensive — summarized in their guidelines as “don’t be a jerk.”

The site has published one short story, one collection of photography, and one short film since its launch on April 18 — one of which was created by the Beacon’s Living Arts editor. Schifano said about eight works have been submitted, but several have yet to be published.

“I want to keep adding to the site, because I want to make it into a real community,” Schifano said. “In the future I would love to do shows or fundraisers…or make a zine with people’s short stories and poems so we have something physical to show people.”

Schifano got the idea to start WCA after his application for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual and media arts was rejected last semester. When he got the news, he sat down with one of the administrators who made the decision to hear why. Schifano found the collegiate view of art to be too focused on being the “best” or “quality.”

“It doesn’t feel as genuine,” Schifano said.

The group’s slogan is “Art Over Academia.” Schifano said this comes from his belief that Emerson students put more effort into doing art to fulfill assignments than to just be truly passionate about a project.

“I want people to not be afraid to just create when they want to,” Schifano said. “When you make something for class, you know it’ll be screened and someone will see it, so there’s a reason. But if you’re just bored and you start making something, then you’re like, ‘What am I going to do with this?’ It’s nice to have a place where that can be seen and exhibited.”

To submit work, students send an email to the group with a film, short story, poem, or photography attached. For written submissions, an editor workshops the piece with the writer, gives feedback, and copyedits the work before publishing it online.

Maya Kaczor, junior and editor for the publication, reads and workshops short story submissions and gives advice to contributing writers.

“I know a lot of people are scared to get rejected or feel like someone’s going to judge their work,” Kaczor said. “I think it’s cool to have a place where we can just take everything in…and help people hone in [their skills].”

Kaczor said some might think a collection of rejected work would be unimpressive, but she disagrees and believes that all art deserves a place to be shared.

“Art is subjective,” Kaczor said. “So what some people think is good, other people are going to think is bad. But I think it’s important to just have a place for it, because you can only have so many people see [your work] on your Facebook.”

Alice Airoldi, junior visual and media arts major, submitted her short film “Ipswitch?” to WCA. She had taken the footage during a car ride with a friend, but she said she had been unsure where to share it.

“I really like the idea that the only reason to submit is to share your art,” Airoldi said. “Especially in a place like Emerson, where everyone is creating all the time…it’s important to have a place for art. Not as widespread as YouTube or Vimeo, but a smaller community.”

Henry Johnston, freshman visual and media arts major, has avoided submitting his art to publications in the past because of his belief that his art would be rejected.

Johnston’s submission, “Post-Wave,” is a collection of photography edited to fit the vaporwave aesthetic. The collection started from his interest in Adobe Photoshop and the highly edited style of vaporwave art. He did not initially intend to publish his work, however when he saw a poster for WCA, he decided to submit.

“It’s a confidence booster, for sure,” Johnston said. “It’s adding this independent third party saying, ‘We recognize your art and we’re validating it,’ which makes it seem so much more legit than just posting on your own social media.”

Schifano said every artist will cope with rejection in their career, but he wants to give struggling artists hope.

“Keep making stuff and post it, because someone is bound to like your [work],” Schifano said. “There are so many people in the world—someone is going to like it.”

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