Denison University: A Liberal Arts Take on the Arts

Goldilocks knew what she wanted; it wasn’t too big and it wasn’t too small. “Just right” for her was in the middle. Many young artists and their families are searching for that same middle ground. Typically they find it at a liberal arts college. Size is important, but mostly what sways them is the one-on-one learning combined with the opportunity to integrate across the arts and sciences.

If that combination is what you and your teen are searching for, make sure Denison University is on your list. It’s one of the top liberal arts colleges in Ohio. 

Combining art and politics

Quality education, diversity, and integration are what define this college. Varied perspectives are alive and well here. The culture and academic structure are built on a dedication to interdisciplinary education and the core value of developing independent thinkers. Students are exposed to new ideas from multiple perspectives across the campus. Examples include the requirement that all students take at least two art classes (no wonder I like it!) and the school’s Queer Studies major. Quantitative understanding, power and privilege, and writing are the lenses through which all subjects are viewed.

There are approximately 80 students working towards a BA or a BFA in Studio Art, with an average class size of 18. The curriculum is purposely planned to build confidence. Students work individually and collaboratively, finding their own voices and communicating their own unique ideas along the way. The liberal arts setting requires they include oral and written expression as well.

(Denison University)

BA students frequently double major. Due to the emphasis placed on integrating ideas across departments, art and design students are encouraged to bring their creative viewpoints into their other classes. Consequently, each course becomes a learning lesson in how art and design affect the world – and vice versa. Common double majors include Studio Art with Communication, with Educational Studies, with Economics, and with Biology.

Those seeking a BFA apply into the program by the beginning of their junior year. Acceptance is dependent upon a presentation of the portfolio they created at Denison, along with an oral defense.

Seniors have their own studio space (Denison University)

Senior year is demanding. Students participate in a yearlong practicum, participate in a group show with juniors, and produce their own solo show with catalog and oral defense. The goal to develop self-reliant and independent artists seems to be working. Alumni are employed as designers, art educators, and architects, and those moving on to grad school have been accepted at top institutions across the country.

It’s clear that the Denison values the arts. At the January groundbreaking of the college’s new performing arts center University President Adam Weinberg affirmed that “more than 40 percent of Denison students participate in the arts in some way.” That includes literary, performing, and visual arts.

Bryant Arts Center, home of the Studio Arts program, was once the campus’s gymnasium, complete with swimming pool. Eight years ago this 45,000 square foot vertical facility was renovated into spacious and light-filled classroom, studio, and exhibition space, with obvious remnants of the building’s past.

(Denison University)

Study abroad opportunities are encouraged, but not before junior year. During sophomore year students begin working with the Off-Campus Study Center to locate the best options for their specific career and study goals.

Denison is located in the charming village of Granville, 35 miles from Columbus. Campus residency is required, which makes sense. It contributes to the tight-knit communal experience and the strong bond between students and faculty. Walking through Bryant Arts Center I felt I was on the set of “Cheers,” where everyone knew your name – well, at least the names of the professors and students passing by.

Last, but far from least to consider is the cost of attendance. Tuition for the Fall 2017 academic year is just under $50,000. But don’t be discouraged, Denison is committed to affordability and is known for the number of quality scholarships it offers. I hope you check it out.

What Art & Design Students Need to Know About RIT

I know, I know. An institute of technology is not the most obvious place to find a top arts program. Most likely it’s not even on your radar. Right? Well, it should be!

cias-twitter-logoAfter an in-depth tour of the College of Imaging Arts & Sciences (CIAS) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) last month I came away thoroughly convinced that this is a great school for visual artists.

Despite its name, artistic learning has been part of RIT since it’s founding in the 1820’s. Today, CIAS encompasses roughly 2,000 of the 15,300 undergraduates on campus. That means visual arts students can benefit from the intimacy of a small college and the resources of a large research university.

CIAS boasts high retention rates, and both the university and the college continually receive high rankings. Clearly, they’re doing something right.

Abundance of available photography equipment

Abundance of available photography equipment

The School of Design is the largest school in the college and it provides a wide path of instruction in 2D, 3D, and 4D design. Emphasis is on designing for process over product and using technology to connect to real world experiences.

Photography looms large on campus. That makes sense when you realize this is the land of photography and print pioneers Kodak and Xerox. Students in the School of Photographic Arts & Sciences start with a comprehensive introduction to the field. As Susan Lakin, program chair for Advertising Photography further explained, “RIT has so many facets of photography available. Students discover the field and its broadness, then are able to explore a multitude of options to discover what their interests are.” Those options include everything from fine art and commercial applications to integration with journalism, business, and science. 

Zara Davis, sophomore ceramics major

Zara Davis, sophomore ceramics major

Another distinguishing program on this technology-focused campus is the School of American Crafts. Seriously. As with other majors, students studying artistic craftsmanship are focused and dedicated. The program has a rigorous studio requirement and includes a year of business courses in preparation for a career in the arts.

Engagement with the real world is built into the curriculum here. Co-ops and time abroad are both highly regarded and highly encouraged. Creative Industry Day, an annual event, promotes portfolio reviews and networking with creative industry professionals.

It’s difficult to gain acceptance into CIAS, which is foretelling that you’ll be challenged once you’re in. Over and over during my visit, I heard that dedication, passion, and focus are required for success. But the benefits are clear and enormous. Artistic mastery, a career-focused education, and a job after graduation. I hope you check it out.

Northeastern University: Create Your Own Path

CAMD students

CAMD students

Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media & Design (CAMD) takes creative education to a new level. There are more great things to say about this program than can easily fit into one blog. Seriously. I’ve been researching the program for a family and just had to share my findings with you.

Beginning with the basics, Northeastern (NU) has almost 18,000 undergraduates, with 2,000 of them enrolled in CAMD. What’s unique here is the combination of available educational options. They lead to a plethora of opportunities, especially benefitting those who want to create their own path. Within the college students can graduate with a single major, two double majors, or combine two half majors. Huh? Yep! Undergraduates can explore and intertwine two passions – two half majors – and accumulate more credits than with one major, but fewer than doubling up.

The university is focused on experiential learning; getting up, out of your seat, and becoming involved. Students across all departments are required to engage in at least one form of experiential education:

  • Barcelona architecture

    Barcelona architecture

    Cooperative education (co-op) typically takes one semester. Students can co-op three times, providing up to 18 months of real-world education. Aspiring artists and designers gain professional hands-on experience. They engage with industry leaders, explore careers, and begin building their career paths.

  • Service learning creates opportunities for students to apply their creative skill set to the greater community, and vice versa. They become active participants, utilizing their newly gained artistic capabilities while furthering social justice.
  • CAMD students also have the opportunity to create individual research projects. Here they can take a deep dive into a singular focus with a faculty member, a group of peers, or on their own.
  • Study abroad offers a whole host of opportunities. Beyond spending a semester studying the Medici’s artistic influence in Florence or fashion in France, students can take a co-op, service learning, or research project abroad. Sign me up!!

Designers also have Scout, an on-campus student-led design studio giving them access to real clients as they solve real design problems.

Northeastern University

Northeastern University

Design, Game Design, and Media Arts majors earn BFAs. Studio Art majors graduate with a BFA through a partnership with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA). (A program note: beginning this fall SMFA will become part of Tufts University. I don’t yet know how this will affect the Studio Arts major at NU.) Other CAMD majors graduate with a BA. Portfolios are required for the BFA in Studio Art and are optional for other majors.

CAMD prides itself on educating and molding its students into engaged and vibrant makers, and ensuring that each one has a perspective of place in the global environment. I hope you go check it out.

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A Day in the Life: Art at a University

OSU Welcome WeekAudrey Quinn Galat is a junior currently majoring in Painting and Drawing at The Ohio State University (OSU). I interviewed her for Art.College.Life’s A Day in the Life series to give you a peek inside a large university. Here are her insights:

I personally think attending a school with a large variety of majors is a must, especially if you are an art major. If you are taught in an art school and the environment is just art and art related things how are you supposed to function in the “real world” where there is obviously a lot more then art surrounding you? Attending a well-rounded school like OSU lets you see perspectives of other “non-art” people, giving you fresh ideas for your work, and allowing you to better understand what your future employers will want from you. Many engineers attend OSU. Art students end up incorporating engineering into their art to make it more unique and more interesting. Also, many future artist employers will be non-artists. One story that comes to mind is of a photography major who was also very interested in skateboarding. He started working for a skateboard magazine just editing a few stories and eventually started taking photos for the magazine. He now makes more than his professors. His job was non-art related, but he was able to turn it into his major. I’d advise young artists to take their passion for art and their passion for whatever else, and combine them if you are able. Being in a diverse school opens up tons of job opportunities to the “real world” where you can add your own artistic twist.

Audrey Galat - OSU student 10.14.15 copyAs you know I love your wire motorcycle goggles. Was that for a class?
The motorcycle goggles were for my sculpture class. We had to draw in space with wire. Don’t always think of drawing like that, do you?

Can you describe a typical day?
– Wake up at 6:30am, get ready for classes; take the bus to Hopkins (the art building)
– Drawing class 8–11am
(eat a granola bar to hold off my stomach because I can’t eat lunch until 2:30pm)

– Anthropology class and English class 11:30am–2:05pm
– Take the bus home to eat lunch (don’t have money to eat out all the time)
– Work 4–8pm
– Eat dinner at 8pm
– Hang out with friends or do homework
– SLEEP!
– Wake up at 6:30am again and repeat!
Weekends are for catching up on school, hanging out with friends, and for relaxing.

Tell us about one of your favorite classes, and why it’s your favorite?
My favorite classes right now are my painting II class and my sculpture class. My painting class is fairly fast-paced has about 20 students in it. Sometimes we work on two paintings at once!

My sculpture class is just as fast paced; it also has about 20 students in it, which is a ton for a sculpture class. It can be a little challenging because sometimes we have to share power tools. I like to show up to class early and selfishly claim the best tools for myself. Part of what is so great about this class is that I learn how to use so many different tools in different ways. Right now I’m teaching myself how to carve into a tree truck with a chainsaw, it’s pretty cool!

painting studioMany people (including some parents) think that majoring in art is easy, with few demands on your time and abilities. How’d you like to dispel that misconception?
It is interesting how often people will say being an art major is “easy” – but then they take a studio class and they hate it because it’s “too much” work. With that being said an art major will take about three and sometimes a crazy four studio classes plus about two general education classes per semester. Each studio class is about three hours long, twice a week (sometimes three times a week) and you are expected to work at least an additional nine hours each week outside of class for each class. Being an art major might not be “hard” mentally, but it will be time-consuming. You can avoid all-nighters and rushing if you just use time management. I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds. Because you are doing what you love and are passionate about art, time seems to fly by. And, because art is already what you do in your free time it isn’t a chore to work on homework.

Are you involved in any on- or off-campus non-class activities?
I am involved in a church small group that meets once a week. Other than that I don’t have much time for anything else. However, I think it’s great to be involved in groups other than art! Adds culture and character to your work!

What’s your favorite place to eat off campus?
My favorite place is Fabians Deep Dish Pizza. I love pizza and this is literally the BEST pizza I have ever had. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Clearly you’ve thought about life after graduation. So what are you thinking, career-wise? You told me “being an art major is already a daring move.” I love that because it’s true yet your passion for it still comes through loud and clear. Have you considered an internship to help you “try out” one or two paths?
As of right now I am open to internships, but am unsure where to apply. I think internships are a great way to get involved with the “real world” and they would defiantly help with job opportunities.

Want to learn more about what Audrey’s up to? Make sure to check out her website and facebook pages. You can always find more up-to-date tips and information on our facebook and twitter pages.

 

Carnegie Mellon University: School of Art

School of ArtHere is a simple truth: The more you do something the better you become at doing it.

A college drawing professor of mine taught this principle well. His homework assignments required drawing, drawing, and then some more drawing. Friends of mine who weren’t art majors would walk down the dorm hallway many nights with comments of “man, you have a lot of work.” (Yes, but let’s save that for another conversation.)

500 drawings - 2Andrew Johnson, Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) School of Art knows this to be true as well. He challenges the school’s freshmen to create 500 drawings over one weekend in the fall. He even provides the pizza. My hand is cramping just thinking about drawing that intensely, but what an outstanding way to strengthen your skill set while developing your craft.

The School of Art (SOA) is an interdisciplinary program. Students study across four concentrated areas and are not required to focus on just one.

  • Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, and Photography
  • Electronic and Time-Based Media
  • Sculpture, Installation and Site Installation
  • Contextual Practice

It’s that interconnectivity – within the arts – and with non-studio academic courses as well that separates this program from others. BFA graduates earn a comprehensive education and a broader understanding of what it’s like to be working artists.

Study consists of conceptual studios and media-based courses. Foundation classes are spread out during the first three semesters on campus and are media focused, providing students the chance to independently immerse themselves into clay, wood, painting, animation, etc. Advanced studios begin during the spring of sophomore year.

Upperclassmen studio space

Upperclassmen studio space

Senior year focuses on independent studio work. Four faculty members team-teach and students are free to choose the concepts and media they wish to explore. The primary goal is to develop a body of work across both semesters.

Like its sister program, gaining acceptance into SOA is competitive. 50% of acceptance decisions are portfolio driven. Mark Cato, SOA Assistant Head, told me that the ideal student “should consider art and art history in society, work should be conceptually based, and they should be open to a broad exposure of different media types.”

For those interested in tapping into even more of the best of CMU, I’d suggest considering the university’s BXA Interdisciplinary Degree. Here’s the chance to combine a humanities, science, or social science degree with an arts degree. Students must be accepted into both schools independently. But the reward is the chance to explore and develop your own approach to interdisciplinary studies.

Is design more your style? Learn about CMU’s School of Design.