As kids growing up in Los Angeles, my brother and I thought we were pretty clever the first time that popped into our heads. Years later, flying home, it still makes me smile.
Last month, after meeting with Laura Young, Director of Enrollment Management at the University of California at Los Angeles’s (UCLA) School of the Arts and Architecture (SAA) the question morphed into “have you seen UCLA?” As one of the top public research universities in the country with a first-rate arts program in a thriving metropolis, a better question might be “why haven’t you?”
UCLA is big city living. Its 27,000 undergraduate students in 125 undergraduate degree programs on a 419-acre campus! And don’t forget about the 109 NCAA titles and 60+ national and local fraternities and sororities. But take a closer look and you’ll see the details inside the big picture. Two SAA departments, Art and Design Media Arts, combine to an intimate 395 underclassmen. That’s an environment ripe with opportunity to cultivate your artistic abilities.
The Art Department offers classes in painting & drawing, photography, ceramics, sculpture, art theory, and new genres, while Design Media Arts takes a multidisciplinary approach to media creation, offering study in Interactivity and Games, Video and Animation, and Visual Communication and Image.
Students in both departments begin with foundation courses where they learn the language of art and the principal traditions of each medium. But the focus isn’t strictly on how to create; equal effort is spent on why. Experimentation is emphasized, and students learn to combine creativity with the intangible, and to balance technique with problem solving. The focus is conceptual, not vocational. Undergraduate coursework in either area will earn you a B.A.
SAA students must be self-directed. The benefit of being part of such a large institution is that your resources can seem almost endless from the time you first step onto campus. The tough part is that working through a large system can sometimes seem daunting.
Laura Young shared some of the details of the application process with me:
– As part of your application to the UC system, you’ll need to identify your top two choices for areas of study (i.e. Communication Studies, Art); UCLA will only consider your first choice.
– SAA professors make the first decision as to who is accepted into the program; university admissions staff become involved solely to address academic standards.
– Make sure to read the application requirements – SAA requires a supplemental application that you won’t want to miss.
– UCLA is the only UC campus requiring a portfolio from incoming freshman. Again, read the application requirements; your portfolio can consist of 8-10 works in any medium.
– The school has a preference to see self-directed work as part of your portfolio, (not what your high school art teacher instructed you to create).
Last year the Art Department received about 950 applications and Design Media Arts received approximately 850. Both programs admit about 40-50 students. For a top-notch creative education wrapped in a diverse and engaging liberal arts package, I’d say those are some lucky students.
Painting and drawing photo courtesy of UCLA.