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.

Not To Be Missed: Design Meets Technology

3D printed arm, Artist Eric Kuester

3-D printed arm, Eric Kuester

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a variety of high school art groups during the past few months. A topic that has come up in each conversation has been the intersection where art and design meet engineering and technology, and the value added when these seemingly opposite fields combine.

These days, when thinking of technology and design our minds typically jump to smart gadgets: be they phones, watches or cars. An exhibit currently on display at Kent State University focuses on the more intimate and personal benefits of the times we live in; by highlighting the individual and life-changing enhancements that can be realized when left and right brain collaborate.

(Dis)Abled Beauty: The Evolution of Beauty, Disability, and Ability is a perfect depiction of this collective success. When working to improve life for the physically challenged, few in the past have paid close attention to aesthetics. But, to quote our newest Nobel Laureate in literature, “the times, they are a-changin’.” Thanks to both new technologies and greater attention given to creativity, newly available products include 3-D printed prosthetic arms and legs, custom-designed hearing aids, and garments that “button” magnetically to aid those with limited mobility and dexterity. Dresses have even been designed to aid the hearing impaired, and hearing aids have become unique artistic statements.

Clothing designs for disabled

Clothing designs for disabled

This is fashion forward thinking at its finest. (Dis)Abled Beauty provides a first-hand demonstration of the emerging creativity, beauty, and functionality that follow when art and design are considered part of the original development of a product.

Is the intersection of design and engineering something your teen finds intriguing? Then get their juices flowing by seeking out internships, summer programs, and colleges that offer both. In the meantime, check out the exhibit at the Kent State University Museum. It runs through March 2017.

Click on the catalog link for an expanded view of the exhibition.

@Pre-College: 8 Tips To Find The Best Summer Arts Program

Temple University, Tyler School of Art

Summer seems a long way off. Especially since the first real snow is just beginning to accumulate outside my window. Yet, even with snowflakes falling, this is the time to put a summer plan in motion for your artsy teen.

I realize that warm summer months are the perfect time for downtime. But getting into top college programs is competitive; a summer program can further your teen’s artistic skills and resume while simultaneously giving him a real taste for college life.

What should you and your teen look for as you search for the best college fit in a pre-college program? Here are just a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Syracuse University Senior Fashion Show: Lailee Waxman

    Syracuse University Senior Fashion Show: Lailee Waxman

    Programs vary in length between one – six weeks.

  • Some colleges limit their summer programs to rising juniors and seniors.
  • Many institutions will count pre-college courses towards college credit. But make sure to inquire even if your teen matriculates elsewhere; some courses are transferable.
  • Some colleges require campus residency over the summer while others don’t provide campus housing at all. The latter means living at home or finding another residence.
  • Most pre-college courses have spring deadlines. So don’t wait until the snow melts to do your research.
  • And speaking of deadlines, if you’re looking for a financial aid to help cover the costs, keep your eyes open to scholarship application deadlines. They often have different deadlines.
  • When totalling up your costs make sure to consider tuition, housing, meal plan, fees, and supplies. Supply costs vary by course.
  • Health and other campus services are typically available just like during fall – spring school terms. Residence hall and academic advisors are available as well. Recreation and other facilities are open.

Attendance at a specific summer program is no guarantee that your aspiring artist will be accepted in the fall. However, it will provide a substantial leg up by delivering a college-level challenge, building strengths and skills, contributing to a future portfolio, and providing the opportunity to connect with a professor – who could possibly write a reference letter when its application time.

I’ve listed a few great art and design programs to get your search started. Good luck! And let me know where you end up –

CCAD
RISD
SCAD
Syracuse University
Temple University (Tyler School of Art)

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Industrial Design: A Different Art Major

By Carla R. Gonzalez

CCS Product Design student work

CCS Product Design student work

Knowing how to guide your creative student can be difficult, particularly if they show an affinity for both the creative and mechanical (robotics, systems and engineering, new technologies), and have an interest in design trends, cars, clothes, or gadgets. All these interests are relevant to Industrial Design. According to the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) website, “…Industrial Design is the professional service of creating products and systems that optimize function, value, and appearance for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.” So while a creative student may be hesitant to choose an art-based college or career, it may be worth researching art and design colleges that have programs in Industrial Design or related fields like Product Design, Transportation Design, Toy Design, or even Fashion Accessories Design and Shoe Design.

CCS Product Design student work

CCS Product Design student work

The career possibilities for graduates of such programs are widely varied and can range from designing home and kitchen appliances to cars and motorcycles, athletic gear, fashion and leather goods, watches, bicycles, furniture, and more. The best design students are often those who want to find ways of improving functionality. They understand the positive impact good design can have on user-perception, functionality, and desirability, and they have an interest in consumer trends and marketing. Industrial designers help develop a brand’s physical identity and build customer loyalty through design and user experience.

national endowment for arts 2013Potential design students need to know that not all design majors need to spend years learning to paint. What they will do is develop their ability to draw and communicate visually and to conduct research to develop innovative designs that meet current and future societal needs and wants. Industrial Design programs teach how to design digitally in 3D, design for an audience, create and print 3D prototypes, connect design to user experience, and work collaboratively with craftspeople, advertisers, and graphic designers. Many programs offer career preparation by integrating corporate-sponsored projects with real-world design problems into the studio classroom. They give students the opportunity to get in front of professional designers, adhere to real deadlines, collaborate, and engage in a healthy dose of friendly competition; all essential to understanding how jobs in the design industry really work. Industrial Design students can be assured that there are jobs out there, and that the demand for better, smarter, and more beautiful design won’t likely diminish any time soon.

College for Creative Studies is one of the top Design Schools in the US based on Alumni Success by LinkedIn. Carla R. Gonzalez is the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at College for Creative Studies. She can be reached at cgonzalez@collegeforcreativestudies.edu.

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