California College of the Arts: An Easy Choice

Graphic DesignIf finding the best college fit is all about options and decisions, then California College of the Arts (CCA) is sitting pretty. Why? Simply put, the location, history, and course offerings of this small arts college combine to create a wide-ranging combination of options without the need for much compromise.

Let’s start with location. CCA resides where the open-minded and creative culture that defines northern California slams head-on into our hi-tech future. Twitter, Pinterest, Adobe, Pixar, and Intel are just a few neighbors that the college draws from for educational inspiration and contributes to, in the form of future employees.

Two seemingly opposite campuses in Oakland and San Francisco actually complement each other by fusing their two aesthetics. The historic Oakland site is where CCA began more than 100 years ago. The Arts & Crafts movement is readily apparent in this lush, residential-style and almost camp-like setting, which is also home base for the school’s First Year Program and freshmen housing.

Oakland campus

Oakland campus

Fittingly, it’s also home to the more traditional and craft-focused programs of ceramics, printmaking, photography, textiles, glass, jewelry, and sculpture. The San Francisco campus is the urban pair of this duo. The culture and tempo here fit its industrial and mixed-use setting, footsteps from the University of California’s biomedical research campus and the Dogpatch neighborhood that is bursting with artisan studios.

Major offerings here include painting and drawing, and the design-focused programs of architecture and interior design, graphic design, industrial design, and furniture design. Students decide their major by the beginning of sophomore year, giving upperclassmen the chance to live on either side of the bay. The college shuttle provides an easy connection between the two.

The depth and breadth of course offerings are front and center in the San Francisco campus main building. The “nave” of this light-filled former Greyhound bus terminal acts as display and critique center for class projects, constantly changing throughout the year. More importantly, it’s a hub of activity and cross-pollination for the college’s 22 undergraduate and 13 graduate majors, providing fodder for the stimulating interdisciplinary and exploratory vibe here.

Critique in the Nave

Critique in the Nave

David Asari, Assistant Chair for Graphic Design, explained that CCA’ers learn how to figure things out. The institution’s must be present to win attitude inspires “students to take responsibility and ownership, and give back to others,” he said. Student critiques are just one way “they develop the thinking and confidence skills to run the show in a few years.”

Due to its long-standing reputation, CCA has developed some top-ranked programs, each attracting faculty that are leaders in their respective fields. A few to check out include the internationally known ceramics program and the fashion design program, which was recently ranked as one of the best in the world. One of the campus’ newest programs is Interaction Design. It doesn’t focus on the form and material of Industrial Design, but rather on how people interact with objects. Think smartphones, apps, TV, etc.

Delve into CCA’s excellent website to learn more. Better yet, go visit. Make a day of it to ensure you see both campuses. It’ll be worth your time. They are making a difference and changing lives here. It’s all in their tag line: Make Art That Matters.

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Is Fashion Your Passion?

Display at The Fashion School Store

Display at The Fashion School Store

Fall is in the air. And so is fashion. Just as my fall sweaters are beginning to scream for attention, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, and Michael Kors are parading their Spring/Summer 2015 designs at New York Fashion Week. Even Serena Williams is in this game. What’s a girl to do?

If fashion is your design passion you have a lot of top college programs to consider. Make sure The Fashion School (FS) at Kent State University is one of them. Located in northeastern Ohio, it’s consistently ranked among the best fashion programs in the country. In 2013 Fashionista.com called it “one of the top American fashion schools [that] keeps getting better.” And the esteemed Council of Fashion Designers of America ranked it in the top ten.

The program offers a BA or BFA in Fashion Design alongside a BS in Fashion Merchandising. And, if you’ve got your eye on an advanced degree and the business world, consider combining your BS with an MBA. This new, five-year program offers graduate level coursework in fashion theory, design management, and fashion research methods from the university’s College of Business. What a great way to launch a career…

When I sat down with J.R. Campbell, Professor and Fashion School Director, he said the school’s success and popularity have them bursting at the seams (no pun intended!). Since their founding in 1983 they’ve grown to a student population of over 1500.

Kent St fashion design school (7) chalk boardWhy so popular? Kent State offers the benefits of a focused, stellar program in a state university setting. That translates into acquiring the skills you’ll need to succeed in a down-to-earth environment. Students gain conceptual, technical, and production design knowledge as well as the problem-solving capabilities required to be successful in today’s fast-paced design industry. Resources are abundant, and include:

An extensive library collection of fashion, historic costume, painting, and decorative arts;

The Fashion School Store in downtown Kent, which sells clothing designed by Fashion School faculty and alumni, creating the opportunity for direct customer feedback in a live retail environment;

A satellite campus in the heart of it all, New York City’s Garment District, with studio and study space for 120 Fashion School students each year; and

Graduates with a high degree of confidence and a reputation for job placement over 90%.

What type of student will succeed at the Fashion School? According to Campbell, “motivated, focused, driven, passionate, and willing to work hard.” So, what are you waiting for?

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Guest Post: Studying Art – An Education In Critical Thinking

By Ellen Fraser

Elon fountain

Elon University

Like many students, when I went to college I had no idea what I wanted to choose as my major. All I knew was that I liked reading, writing, and history better than I liked science and math. A liberal arts college seemed like the best fit for me—a place where I could dip my toes into a lot of different disciplines. The first semester of my freshman year, I took an art history class. I decided this would be a good idea because I had always enjoyed history in high school. My favorite part of the subject had always been learning about the ways in which historical happenings influenced aspects of the culture in the place where these happenings, well, happened. Art—its genres, styles, and techniques—was included in this.

Often times, art history has this stereotype of being a class where students sit in a dark room, trying to prevent their eyes from glazing over as they stare at endless slides of ancient artworks that they are expected to memorize for a test at the end of the semester. Well, I went to college at a little school in North Carolina called Elon University, and at this school, I quickly learned that art history did not simply involve a dark room illuminated only by image slides.

logoThe art history program at Elon illuminated my mind. My classes and professors exposed me to art and artists from a variety of geographic locations and time periods. However, and more importantly, they aided in my learning of critical issues that occupy the minds of some of the greatest creators of all time, as well as the fact that works of art can be seen in a variety of ways, and that no way is more correct than another. Also, as a friend to many practitioners of studio art, I was always impressed with the way these students could articulate their concepts when showing their work at campus events. Not only were they talented creators, but they also knew how to talk about their creations.

I never was and (even after having finished my Bachelor’s degree in the subject) am still no artist. And by this I mean only not an artist in a literal sense of the word. Studying art in college taught me how to think critically, to see different perspectives, and to use my thoughts to be a better asker of questions and artist of the written word. These are all important skills to have as students leave college to work on being more aware participants in life. A degree in art, especially from a liberal arts university, can help to sharpen these tools.

Ellen graduated from Elon in the spring of 2014 and is now happily employed by a non-profit arts organization.

 

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Cleveland Institute of Art: Small and Mighty

If you’re a basketball fan or looking forward to the next Republican National Convention, you already know that Cleveland has been headlining the news lately. For those unaware, LeBron James and the Republicans have each chosen the city to play an important role in their futures. Art students should consider it as well. I toured the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) early this spring, and can tell you that even on a rainy day the sparkle of this small art college was obvious. The institution is perfectly located among some of the city’s greatest cultural icons and uses them to its advantage. Neighbors like the Cleveland Art Museum, Severance Hall, and the Museum of Contemporary Art act as natural extensions of the CIA campus, offering its 570 undergraduates a lot more than what first meets the eye.

CIA student work

CIA student work

The college’s tag line is “Creativity Matters.” Clearly they take this principle seriously, for it’s at the core of the integrated opportunities available here. Students begin with a typical foundations year. During spring semester they prepare a portfolio and apply to a major. Then the fun really begins! Offerings include a full spectrum of fine art and design majors, each with its own creative possibilities. Consider Industrial Design (ID): CIA ID students have the opportunity to explore real world opportunities with Engineering and Computer Science majors of neighboring Case Western Reserve University (Case). Through Case’s think[box], students from diverse backgrounds come together to design, develop, and potentially commercialize their ideas. This is cross fertilization and creativity at its finest! Not interested in ID, but want to reach beyond your art courses? No problem; all CIA students can take Case classes – up to two per year at no additional cost.

Another blended opportunity is Biomedical Art (Biomed). One of only two undergraduate programs in the country, CIA’s Biomed major combines illustration and digital media with biology, anatomy, and histology. As preparation for future careers in botanical or medical fields Biomed students get up close and personal at the nearby Museum of Natural History and Cleveland Botanical Garden, and observe procedures at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

Biomedical Art senior project: Melissa Logies

Biomedical Art senior project: Melissa Logies

Classes and studio space are pretty equally divided between the Gund and McCullough buildings, about a 10-minute walk from each other. Come fall of 2015 that will change, as a “new Gund” is currently under construction next door to McCullough. Students will benefit from new, roomier studio space and easier access to classes.

Another capital improvement is the Uptown Residence Hall, opening this fall. It’s a freshmen only dorm, of two-bedroom, two-bath suites. The good news: each suite is equipped with full drawing tables. The bad news: having your own bathroom means you get to clean it yourself. Upperclassmen have the benefit of their own studios on campus, so their living quarters don’t have a separate drawing area. The college’s dining plan is hosted at Case, and offers options to include purchases at restaurants and grocery stores in the University Circle neighborhood.

CIA is situated in a thriving, energetic neighborhood, and offers a creative environment for students to study and explore. I’d suggest heading to northern Ohio to explore it for yourself.

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What’s the Best City for Artists?

Nashville map 4A number of years ago when my husband and I were visiting the Boston area, we were invited to a casual dinner with new acquaintances. Early in the evening, as we were getting to know others at dinner, the “where are you from” question came up. The discussion evolved into a comparison of east and west coast living when someone turned to my husband and asked him, “Which coast are you from?” With a smile, he responded, “There is something in the middle you know.”

My husband grew up in Michigan.

Let’s face it; in this country we typically look to the coasts for new ideas and endeavors. It’s been that way for years, and will continue I’m sure.

The good news for artists and designers is that there’s a groundswell of creativity coming from the rest of the nation. From the Northwest to the Midwest to the South, creatives are discovering wonderful, welcoming, and less expensive communities in which to live and thrive. Even better news; many of these communities have first-rate art colleges nearby. Perhaps it’s a case of the chicken or the egg; I don’t know which came first but the outcome is beneficial either way.

15 Cities for Creative 20-Somethings is a great starting point for researching up-and-coming artistic havens. Read the post to see if any of them grab you. And while you’re at it, check out nearby art colleges and programs. I’ve listed a sampling of public and private art programs near some of these artistically-minded cities, but suggest you do your own homework to learn what each community and college has to offer.

University of Texas at Austin  – Austin, TX
Oregon College of Art & Craft, Pacific NW College of Art   –  Portland, OR
University of Louisville (excellent glass program)  –  Louisville, KY
College for Creative Studies  –  Detroit, MI
Carnegie Mellon University  –  Pittsburgh, PA

One more thing; I’d like to amend the list to 16 Cities, and add Columbus, Ohio. I know I’m biased, but this city does have a lot to offer all types of creatives. And, CCAD is a great career launching pad for future artists and designers.

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