How Artists Can Find a Meaningful Summer Experience

art-splattered-resumeBuilding a resume for college can seem overwhelming. Many parents become confused with the vast expectations put upon them and their college-bound teens. What should my teen focus on? Should she prioritize grades and test scores above all else? Should he allocate extra time to his art? What about extra-curricular activities, volunteering or work?

The seemingly endless questions could make you hyperventilate with anxiety but don’t. Taken one step at a time; there is value is each of these activities but it isn’t necessary for your teen to have them all. Admissions representatives repeatedly will tell you that grades, test scores, and a portfolio top the list. Yes, they want well-rounded teens who have been exposed to a variety of experiences, but they also favor students who are focused and purposeful in their endeavors and accomplishments.

With those confusing requirements in mind consider summer as an opportunity, a great time for your teen to further explore his passion for the visual arts while building his resume. Numerous summer opportunities exist for high school artists who want to explore their creative passions and expand their skill set while working, volunteering, or attending a pre-college program. Any of those experiences will positively impact a resume.

Pre-college Summer Programs

School of Visual Arts dorm room

School of Visual Arts dorm room

I’m a big fan of pre-college summer programs. They provide a wealth of opportunities. Teens typically live on campus, giving them a true taste of college life while they experiment with artistic approaches that are different from those they’ve practiced in high school classes. Instructors, who are working artists, can become mentors. More importantly, they provide a window into the real world of creative careers.

The downside to pre-college programs is that they fill up quickly. And, they can be expensive, at roughly $2,000-$6,000 for a two-to-eight week experience. Other options are available but will vary; mostly depending on which art form your teen is interested in pursuing.

Off-campus 

Disney's Fish Hooks

Disney’s Fish Hooks

So how does your teen prepare otherwise? For many majors the recommendation is the same, “draw, draw, draw.” Diana Lafyatis, children’s comedy director and writer for Nickelodeon’s Harvey Beaks and Disney’s Fish Hooks, and animation alum of the Art Center College of Design echoes that sentiment. “In animation, there is a heavy emphasis on drawing from life.” Her recommendation? “Bring along a sketchbook with you everywhere you go and continually draw the people and places you see.” It’s an excellent way to gain confidence in a skill set. The additional benefits are that many colleges encourage submitting sketchbooks as part of the portfolio application, and they want to see drawings specifically from observation not just what’s in your head.

Jaclyn Didas, RIT grad student

Jaclyn Didas, RIT grad student

Anne Holman, jeweler, and owner of The Smithery is a former college teacher herself. She’s experienced first hand how “translating a 2D drawing into a 3D piece of jewelry can be a challenge.” She suggests tapping into the programming at a local community center or even a local organization’s workshops in jewelry, sculpture, or 3D design to get over that hurdle.

Jane Lewis is a textile designer who began her craft drawing prints by hand but then quickly moved into digital design. Her recommendation for those serious about designing anything in print is two-fold. “Focus on your design and color skills in whatever medium you love – digital, watercolor, pastel, drawing, etc.” Then, if you don’t have the skill set already, make sure to learn graphic software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. “Even a base understanding of the tools in these programs will give you a huge leg up,” she added.

STACKED CUPS - WELLIE'S [Converted]Separate from making art, students can maximize their summer experiences learning about a specific field of interest. Examples include shadowing, interning, or volunteering. Students can reach out to intern at a local advertising agency, shadow a team at a fashion magazine, or approach an art gallery or photographer about volunteer work.

In-depth learning, experience, and exploration can be found via numerous avenues. Whether on campus or not, the idea is to focus on increased knowledge and skill development. At summer’s end, your teen will have a better understanding of future college and career goals, and she’ll have added one more thing to include in her resume.

Is Graphic Design an Option for Your Teen?

I’m beginning to think that graphic designers rule the world. Seriously.

trader joes salsa

Think graphic designers don’t influence you? Guess again. Do you choose a product at Trader Joe’s because you like the label design? Thank a graphic designer. Do you read the nutrition fact panel on the side? Thank a graphic designer. And we haven’t even left the grocery store. The art form has applications in every field from advertising to education, science, healthcare, and more. Skillful graphic designers inspire us, keep us safe, and change our lives. They work with line, color, shape, form, space, and type in every medium. They’re master communicators hiding in plain sight behind a pen, pencil, or keystroke.

So who becomes a graphic designer? And is it a plausible career path for your teen? Here are some observations to consider.

tour de franceDesigners are inquisitive at their core. They’re creative makers who can spend endless hours devoted to perfecting the details of a drawing or design. Yet they’re also keenly aware of the big picture and how the whole fits together. They have an aesthetic awareness and appreciate connections that others may not perceive. And they’re often drawn to the conceptual or visual applications of math. Think geometry instead of algebra.

Graphic Design USA recently announced the top graphic design programs across the country. There are many familiar names on the list and some not as well known. It’s a great place to start a college search if your teen is intrigued by the world of graphics. Do your research to ensure your family finds the best college fit. Also, make sure to check our ValuePenguin’s list of the best cities for graphic design careers and the salaries that accompany them.

Follow us on facebook and twitter to learn more about different art and design majors.

Let’s Get Practical – The Real Value of an Art Degree

So mom and dad are a little anxious that you want to study art in college – let alone attend an art school. That’s understandable, especially in today’s job market. What kind of job can you get with a degree in painting – or any other art field for that matter? Thinking long term, what kind of career choices will you have? Will you earn enough to make a living? And how about paying back those pesky student loans?

Ceramic color tiles

Ceramic color tiles

First things first; when deciding to pursue an art education you need to realize that not everyone who studies art will be as successful as Ralph Lauren or Georgia O’Keefe. But the skills learned are transferable and invaluable.

Steven Tepper, Associate Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University and Research Director of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) recently explained the growing need for artists in the workplace in Fast Company magazine. “It’s common today to debate the comparative merits and economic value of various college majors, but those of us who track issues and trends around the nation’s creative economy contend that much of the comparisons miss the mark in important and fundamental ways.” He continues, “no less a force in global business than IBM found that the most important skill for successfully navigating our increasingly complex, volatile, and uncertain world is none other than creativity.”

Art school outwardly teaches the creativity of art and design. Subliminally it instills problem solving skills, patience and determination, flexibility, collaboration, and a strong work ethic that lets you fail and begin again. All these skills are critical to become a successful artist, a valued employee and a trusted leader.

New York Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas Friedman approached creativity from a different perspective in “Need a Job? Invent It.” His observation, and that of Harvard education specialist Tony Wagner, is that today’s and tomorrow’s job seekers will not only need to be creative in their search efforts but more than likely need to design their own jobs and career paths.

Creativity and innovation are at the heart of what every artist studies. And the idea of a starving artist probably isn’t going away soon. But the reality of an art education being the stepping stone to a growing and prosperous career is more plausible today than ever before.

What do I think? Well, it’s about time.

National Portfolio Day

It’s National Portfolio time across the country.  What does that mean for you?  If you’re a high school art student contemplating an art career this is your opportunity to check out a wide variety of art and design colleges, learn about the programs they offer, and show off your own artistic capabilities.

From September through the end of January over 40 art and design institutions will host “National Portfolio Days,”which are art focused college fairs.  They give prospective students the chance to meet with representatives from a large variety of colleges with strong art programs.   In my neck of the woods, the Art Academy of Cincinnati and Columbus College of Art & Design are the hosts, holding National Portfolio Days on October 6th and 7th respectively.  Professors from AAC and CCAD along with representatives from over 35 other schools will be on hand to meet with students.

This two-way street opportunity is so much better than a traditional college fair.  Aspiring artists get to check out a variety of schools first hand, comparing various programs across the country.  Simultaneously, they receive a portfolio evaluation from college art experts, which can sometimes result in encouragement to apply.  Check out the National Portfolio Day website to learn about opportunities near you.

Before you go, make sure you’re prepared.  Here are four helpful tips to keep in mind.

1 – Review your portfolio.  Organize it so it tells the story you want to tell.  Is that by medium?  Subject matter?  Your story = your choice.

2 – Include sketches and work in progress.  Your technique and problem solving process is often more apparent in unfinished work.

3 – If some work is too large, fragile or cumbersome to carry, photograph it.  With that in mind, even though we now live in a world of electronics, don’t expect every school to have a laptop handy to view your work on a cd or dvd.  Bring your own, and make sure you’re battery is fully charged.

4 – Make sure to write down comments and critiques of your work.  You’ll want to remember what is said, and by whom.

Presenting your work to prospective art and design schools can be intimidating.  But National Portfolio Days are a win-win.  You’ll learn about a variety of programs and the artistic opportunities available for your future.   Breathe deep and dive in!

Hello world!

On August 27th we delivered our youngest child to college.  It was definitely bittersweet, but we are excited for him to begin the next chapter of his life.  Like his brother before him, he grew through the college application process, and now is ready to take on the world.  I too have learned a lot through the get-your-child-to-find-the-right-college years.  Having now delivered two sons, I’m feeling the big “phew!”

Since my experiences are fresh in my mind I thought I’d develop this blog to help others through the process.  Whether you’re still in high school, a parent of high school students, or affiliated with the process in some other way, I hope you’ll find my posts beneficial.  I also bring a background in marketing and communications to this blog, as well as an undergraduate education in art.  I’m a working artist, and am very interested in the today’s art and design schools.

My goal is to share personal experiences, stories from others, information from specific colleges and universities, and timely information and tips from across the web.  Please feel free to ask any questions.  If I don’t know the answers I’ll tell you, and I’ll try to direct you to someone who can be of help.    Here we go…