Art College Search Tips: Back to Basics

Glassblowing: University of Washington

Glassblowing: University of Washington

Starting the college search process for the aspiring artist in your family takes a leap of faith. There are so many details to consider that it’s often confusing to know when, where, and how to begin your teen’s search.

Let’s keep it simple. At the beginning, your main purpose is to expose your teen to a variety of choices. Open her eyes and let her see, feel, and imagine herself in different scenarios. Then, as decisions are made she’ll be able to narrow the field to what fits her – and your – needs and wants.

Begin your search by focusing on a limited number of factors. I’ve chosen three to get you going. They’ll provide focus when researching from home and when touring campuses. And the answers your teen and family come up with will guide and influence other decisions down the road. There is no sequence to these three. I recommend exploring them together to see what you come up with.

Ceramics: California College of the Arts

Ceramics: California College of the Arts

Major Decisions
Is illustration your daughter’s passion? Can she draw non-stop from her imagination? Perhaps she’d like to apply her talents to the world of animation. Most art campuses have cinematic majors these days, but many liberal arts colleges and universities may not. Translation: pay attention, because not all colleges offer every major. However, make sure you keep in mind this staggering statistic: according to the National Center for Education Statistics about 80% of students in the US end up changing their major at least once.

BA or BFA?   We know that different institutions offer different majors. They also provide different degree programs. The general rule of thumb is that 60% of study and class time will be spent on arts programming on the way to a Bachelor of Fine Arts. The other 40% will be spent on support courses and general studies. The reverse is true for a Bachelor of Arts. Those seeking a Bachelor of Design typically follow a ratio similar to a BFA.

Big Fish In A Little Pond    Is an art and design school what your teen is looking for, or would she prefer to integrate her studies within a broader liberal arts education? The former will have her learning and living with artists 24/7. That’s invigorating but may also feel limiting. At the latter, she’ll get to mix it up with STEM, English, philosophy majors and more. That can speak to artistic inspiration, cross-pollination, and a soft place to land if she decides art isn’t her field after all.

Just remember, there is no “right” answer to any of these questions.  There is only what’s right for your teen and your family. And, once your high schooler begins to discover her preferences other questions will develop, but she’ll be on her way to finding her best college fit.

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Artists #Making It Work: Liz Robb

Liz Robb

Liz Robb

It’s often said that artists cannot make a living from their artwork alone. Parents of aspiring fine artists stress about it in their souls.

Liz Robb is a young fiber artist who is beginning to prove that worry to be unnecessary, especially for her parents. I interviewed Liz in the fall of 2014 soon after she completed her MFA and moved to San Francisco. At the time she was just beginning; figuring out how to make it as a successful fiber artist. A short 18 months later she’s building quite a name for herself.

Since we’ve last connected, Liz has exhibited at numerous shows throughout the west as well as at the International Textile Art Biennial in Belgium. She completed a two-month artistic residency at the Icelandic Textile Center in Blönduós, Iceland, has received numerous awards, and has had her art published in several design magazines.

Liz' Rope Curvature on display

Liz’ Rope Curvature on display

Lucky me, I ran into Liz this past weekend where she was showcasing her textural wonders at the StARTup Art Fair in San Francisco. The setting was unique. 40-some contemporary, independent artists displayed their work in individual hotel rooms of a 1950’s motor lodge turned boutique “California beach house” style hotel. No kidding!

At the show and on her website I found Liz’ most recent body of work to be focused and distinctive, with an obvious influence of her time in Iceland.

Whether you’re an aspiring artist or the parent of someone who dreams of being one, make sure to read my interview with Liz. Her words offer clear insight into the creative process and what artists feel as they develop their career paths.

Clearly, Liz’ days of Lyft and Uber driving to supplement her art career are receding in her rear-view mirror.

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