In A Buckeye State of Mind

Student work - Department of Art 3-D Foundation course

Student work – Department of Art 3-D Foundation course

For many, searching for the right college begins with the question “art college or university?” The two choices lead to very different college experiences. And, true confessions here: I attended a state school and came away with an exceptional education. (Thank you, U Dub!) Unfortunately, I don’t live in Washington anymore, but Ohio offers some outstanding opportunities as well.

The Ohio State University (OSU) is one of the largest land-grant, research universities in the country. I thought they only did “big” in Texas, but OSU proves that theory wrong. Think 49,000+ undergraduate students, ½ million alumni, and 175 majors. Those numbers translate into significant opportunities and support for the Departments of Art, Arts Administration, Design, and Art History.

I’ve had the chance to tour both the Art and Design Departments, and I came away impressed. You won’t need a portfolio to gain acceptance into the university. However, you’ll need one for acceptance into one of the 10 majors these two departments provide. With guidance from professors and your foundation classes you’ll create one during freshman year (Design) and your sophomore year (Art) to compete for acceptance into your major of choice.

Industrial Design class

Industrial Design class

The two departments reside in buildings adjacent to each other, providing plenty of opportunity for cross-pollination. Both are competitive to gain entry. Only 80 students are accepted into the Department of Design’s Pre-Design program, which is narrowed down to 54 after freshman year. That equates to 18 new students each year joining one of three majors; Industrial Design, Interior Design, or Visual Communications. The end result is small classes with highly motivated students who graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Design, and excellent career opportunities.

The Department of Art is slightly larger but no less competitive. Students complete five foundation courses before gaining acceptance into the rigorous and challenging program. Those admitted earn a BFA in Art and Technology, Ceramics, Glass, Painting and Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, or Sculpture in a traditional studio environment. Also available is a Bachelor of Arts in Art, a more general degree for students wanting a career related to the arts.

Internships are highly encouraged, especially following sophomore year when students have more confidence in their skills. Study abroad opportunities are also encouraged, providing the chance to learn from other cultures and gain an international perspective.

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More Tools You Can Use

Cooper-Union

Cooper-Union

Finding the best art college fit requires research. That’s obvious. But often times it’s difficult to know what information you’re searching for. And then there’s the challenge of knowing where to find the answers. That’s where Art.College.Life. comes in. I love exploring and examining what each college has to offer, and then sharing it with you.

In my searching I’ve found that more and more colleges are beginning to list their complete course catalogs online. The benefits to parents and prospective students are simultaneously simple and significant. They provide the opportunity to explore an area of study before you actually explore an area of study – if you know what I mean.

Each college has a different set-up and some provide more extensive information than others, but the basic material is the same: an overview of what is actively taught in each class, the number of credits earned, and any required prerequisites.

University of the Arts

University of the Arts

The chance to peek across the threshold before you actually step there is often tempting, and in this case it’s informative. Students can gain a better understanding of what they’ll accomplish in each major and each course. If a subject matter isn’t enticing for you, here’s a way to know what to expect ahead of time. Or maybe it’s a subject to steer clear of, meaning you might need to consider a different major. Providing a more detailed view of what’s to come creates opportunity for clearer understanding and better planning. A great tool when you’re trying to find the best fit in a college art program.

Here’s an example of some of the course curricula available online:

Cleveland Institute of Art

Maryland Institute College of Art

Massachusetts College of Art & Design

School of Visual Arts (ex: Film & Video)

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Benefits Of A Summer Program

Ringling College of Art & Design

Ringling College of Art & Design

I’d like to tell you that spring is in the air, but honestly I’m just not feeling it. Snow is all around and there isn’t a crocus or daffodil in sight. But spring and even summer should be on your mind because now is the time to plan for a pre-college art or design summer program.

During June, July and August, large and small colleges across the country offer one – to – six week opportunities for high school students to become immersed in a creative collegiate experience.  Depending upon the institution, courses can range from life drawing or game design, to fashion, photography, and portfolio development.

The benefits are tremendous. Here’s your chance to learn from working artists while you gain new skills, find a new passion, and gain a clearer understanding of college-level work.  Grow as an artist while you work on your portfolio and live among like-minded artisans.

I’ve listed a few programs to jump-start your research. While doing your own exploration I hope you’ll keep these key points in mind:

  • On-campus living opportunities vary from program to program.
  • Some summer programs offer college credit.
  • Many programs have a minimum age requirement of 16.
  • Application, financial aid, and scholarship deadlines vary by institution.

Time spent in an intensive summer program will prove to be a worthwhile experience as you plan for your transition to college. I hope you take the time to research some options close to home, and a little further away. Let me know what you find, and where you end up.

Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois

Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, Washington

Ringling College of Art & Design, Sarasota, Florida

University of Cincinnati, DAAP, Cincinnati, Ohio

University of Michigan, Stamps School of Art & Design, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Cooper-Union

Cooper-Union

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Design Thinking: In The Classroom

design thinkingWhich colleges are integrating Design Thinking into their undergraduate Industrial Design (ID) programs?

Here’s one: The Methods of Design Research at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) was offered this past fall semester for ID sophomores. Paired with a spring semester studio class, the two courses combine to help students grasp the strategic rationale behind the design of a product and the process required to get to that rationale, in order to design a more successful product. “The goal is to simulate a real-world project scenario that incorporates insights, strategy, and then design,” explained John Youger, Director of Insights and Strategy at WD Partners and CCAD Adjunct Professor. 

Last semester’s project: design a future gas station, something that will exist 5 – 10 years from now. The process includes understanding and defining the challenge, generating ideas, and conducting research, followed by prototyping and testing. The night I sat in on the class had students flushing through their methods for gathering their primary and secondary research.

As if responding to a real-world RFP, students considered myriad details including vehicles of the future, fuel types, technology, and spatial layout of a gas station. They also dialogued over how to conduct their primary research (teams of 2 – 3 were formed), and discussed the market groups that will feel the impact of a design change; consumers, employees, and stakeholders. Finally, they planned for the presentations of their findings.

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova's research presentation

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova’s research presentation

End of semester results and presentations for this collaborative group were impressive. Now, engaged in their studio courses, the same students are focusing on the impact their research has made on their design choices, and will have on the look and feel of their future fuel stations.

Their research and the process they utilized to obtain it have provided them with the tools to create good future design decisions, in class and throughout their careers. The process can be repeated and utilized to solve project after project. If ID is on your radar, inquire at other colleges. Ask how they integrate design thinking into their processes. For me, I can’t wait to see what the end of this semester brings.

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Leaving Your Heart In San Francisco

SFAI rooftop gathering

SFAI rooftop gathering

Around the corner from the compact hairpin turns of Lombard Street sits the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), one of the countries renowned art colleges. Tucked into the neighborhood known as Russian Hill, this compact campus has been a beacon of “creativity and critical thinking” since its formation in 1871. The college’s four artistic founders wanted an environment in which they could motivate and stimulate each other’s artistic development. That interactive and open philosophy drives the studies and feel of the college to this day.

 Focused on contemporary fine arts and cross-disciplinary study, you’ll find no commercial design courses here. The idea is to create working artists, engaged with and influenced by the world around them.

Freshmen dive into studio work from day one, taking two studio courses their first semester, and three their second. The Contemporary Practice Class fulfills the typical “foundations” role by exploring multiple mediums and genres, and introducing students to the urban environment around them – the city of San Francisco. Here, they tap into the city’s culture, its organizations and non-profits, and begin engaging with the world.

The college is divided into two schools, but students engage with and take courses in each. The School of Interdisciplinary Studies offers BA’s in Contemporary Art History and Urban Studies. The School of Studio

Photography lab

Photography lab

Practice offers BFA’s in Design and Technology, Film, New Genres, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture. As at other art colleges, liberal arts courses are structured to enhance artistic understanding and exploration. Studio Practice majors can take 11 electives during their four years on campus. They spend 70% of their time engaged in studio coursework, 30% in academic coursework.

With many open-ended assignments, self-motivation is a necessity. Each department has technical staff available for those needing a better understanding – or wanting to push themselves further. Additional campus resources include: free, nightly public lectures given by practicing artists, artistic thinkers, and curators; health insurance; and an almost endless amount of space for displaying your artwork.

Since the curriculum here is explorative in structure and study, it’s not surprising that graduates of the program are entrepreneurial. Many go on to start their own art galleries, or continue their artistic exploration in a residency program. SFAI statistics claim that 95% of alumni maintain a creative practice five years after graduation. That’s a strong number.

Hallway gallery space

Hallway gallery space

Colleen Mulvey, Associate Director of Admissions, was my campus tour guide. As with all SFAI admissions counselors, she holds an MFA from the college. Putting someone who’s walked-the-walk in the position of explaining the school is not always done, and quite frankly is frustratingly missing in some institutions. Not here; throughout the tour she continually brought our conversations back to SFAI’s core: the study and exploration of contemporary art in a truly open and engaging environment. If this philosophy sounds intriguing to you, I hope you’ll check the school out. Admission is based primarily on your GPA and portfolio. Contact the college with any questions. They offer free portfolio reviews as well.

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