Scholarship Season: Artists Paying It Forward

Obstacles, by their very nature, create frustration. They restrict us and often cause us to just give up. Thank goodness, every once in a while, someone comes along to change the status quo and create a new path forward. Alison Hess is such a person. She’s a trailblazer who’s paying it forward.

As a high school student, her heart was set on studying art in college. Yet she didn’t have the financial means to make it happen. Her obstacles were many, including finding scholarship after scholarship for prospective pre-law and pre-med majors but not for burgeoning artists. Having to rely mostly on her good grades and general scholarship opportunities, she made it happen. But that struggle stuck with her.

Fast-forward to 2014 and a new path emerged for students wanting to study art and design in college: Zinggia Ohio Art Scholarship.

Alison, with help from her husband Jason Salisbury, did the difficult legwork to establish the fund. Now beginning their third year, both are happy to report that they’re making a difference in the lives of others. Their goal, to “help art students in Ohio further their education in the visual arts field“ is clearly making a difference. Award winners in the first two years of the fund’s existence have applied their newfound financial resources to art programs at Ohio University and SCAD. The $2,000 scholarship is for Ohio-based high school seniors, and can be used towards art and design study at any college in the U.S. The deadline for this year’s application is March 5th.

passion quote - chasing it downWhen not paying it forward, Alison, an illustrator, can be found selling her artwork through her Esty shop, Canning Crafts.

Jason can be found applying his graphic design skills at Ohio Thrift Stores where he is in charge of marketing, graphic design, and advertising. Together they’re also creating coloring books and other kid-centered creative items.

At the risk of being repetitive, take the time to read Scholarship Season: Tips and Tools for some valuable scholarship insights. And make sure your Ohio-based teen looks into Zinggia. Both parent and teen will be glad you did.

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Swimming in the Pool of College Applicants: How Your Artsy Teen Can Be a Winner

Olympian Ryan Lochte

The time of year always brings it out. Start with a mix of winter cold and overcast skies, add in some snow, feelings of being cooped up together indoors, and presto: apprehension, pressure, and anxiousness about college options and choices rear their ugly heads. The phenomenon is common for high school sophomores, juniors, and their parents alike. No wonder; there are so many parts and pieces to this puzzling process. They each require thoughtful attention. It can be exasperating and exhausting.

But let’s step back a minute. Beyond grades, test scores, and all those other requirements the question needs to be addressed: what will really differentiate your artsy teen from the rest of the college applicant pool?

I believe the answer lies in considering the bigger picture and focusing – now – on your teen’s demonstrated interest. In college-search terminology “demonstrated interest” mostly refers to a teen’s exhibited desire to attend a particular institution. How many times has your son been in contact with the college? Has he attended an on-campus information session or met with the admissions representative? There are numerous ways to reach out and “touch” a college or university, but I’m not referring to that type of expression here. What I’m talking about zeros in on your teen’s passion for art and design, their dedication and drive to create. Whether their focus is on a variety of visual arts or just one specific craft, demonstrating the desire to spend time making art is key.

Rapt Studio, California

Ask yourself, does your daughter repeatedly lose track of time to her detailed drawings? Does your son spend countless hours sketching and studying fashion trends? Is either one clamoring to attend another summer art program? That’s demonstrating interest, and passion. The objective here is to capitalize on that focus.

I’ve put together a few tips for you to consider.

  • Take advantage of all that your high school offers,
  • Research after school and weekend art classes,
  • Search for volunteer opportunities that will let your teen apply her creative talents,
  • Network for internships in a design firm or art museum, and
  • Encourage artistic self-exploration.

Yes, these will enhance that high school resume, but isn’t that, in part, what we’re talking about? It may also seem like I’m just piling onto the “must do” list. The reality is – here’s a chance to put your teen’s interest and dedication to the test. The value will be apparent in an engaged teenager who will have a more in-depth comprehension of a potential college major and career path. Their focus will help them stand out in the applicant crowd and improve their chances of getting accepted to the colleges they want to attend.

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Michigan Proud

In Ohio, it’s known as that “school up north.” You know, the one that shall not be named. Blame it on superstition and a decades-old rivalry.

Stamps logoThe reality is that the University of Michigan (UofM) deserves more than just a mention. It’s one of the best higher education institutions in the country. An outstanding comprehensive public research university, it is always near the top in comparative college rankings. It has a unique visual arts program, provides a global focus, an active student life, and is set in a charming college-town, in a beautiful part of the country. Oh yeah, and they have this Big 10 football team.

UofM is a big place: 27,000 undergraduate students big. All that prestige and size provide excellent resources for the intimate Penny Stamps School of Art & Design (Stamps); 550 undergraduates intimate.

Lithography demonstration

Lithography demonstration

Stamps students earn a BFA or a BA in art and design, not in any individual area. The school’s interdisciplinary approach is based in the studio and is designed to educate students across mediums, preparing them for careers that will require knowledge across disciplines. Stamps exposes them to the bridges between those mediums and gives them the freedom to shift their focus along the way.

Another distinguishing feature is the university’s dedication to creating citizens of the world. Program requirements include time spent studying abroad and a semester engaging with communities other than their own. The latter can manifest itself in a number of ways including teaching art to elementary school children in Detroit, working with veterans or working with chronically ill individuals.

The school maintains a strong focus on careers as well, engaging every freshman from the first semester through senior year. Support services help with resume building, interview skills, internship guidance and more, all while communicating that a successful career is each individual’s responsibility.

Students inspired to learn something new should apply. Stamps is seeking independent thinkers who are open to new ideas and ready to integrate their expanding view of the world into their creative futures. If that’s your son or daughter, I highly suggest you give this school a good, long look.

The Value of a College Tour

University of Michigan

Tour season is here. The snow has finally melted and families are eager to get outside, outside to explore campuses without all that snow. Colleges feel the same anticipation. Warmer weather brings spring flowers and students engaged in outdoor activities, resulting in picturesque scenes just as recruitment season kicks into gear for next year’s freshmen.

Those of you who regularly read my posts know what a strong proponent I am of touring colleges. Researching various programs and talking with admissions representatives are essential initial steps in the search process. However, they need to be followed up by a campus visit to determine if the fit is right. Nothing compares to setting foot on concrete and brick covered pathways, and through dorm and classroom building hallways.

Keeping that in mind, we all know that the costs associated with touring every campus your teen wants to explore can become exorbitant. Blame it on the Internet and the Common App; the times we live in encourage students to apply to numerous institutions. And often times, they seem to be scattered across the country.

College admissions personnel understand your predicament. That’s one of the reasons why more and more of them provide virtual tours through their websites. The tours are great tools, offering a realistic glimpse of campus.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.47.07 PMSCAD is striding even further down the path of virtual tours. They’re ahead of other colleges, but I’m sure that will soon change. The school now offers a virtual reality (VR) system to prospective students. They manufactured cardboard VR headsets which when hooked up to your cell phone provide an in-depth virtual tour from your own living room. Does your son want to attend SCAD’s campus in Hong Kong or LaCoste, France? No problem. Assemble your VR kit, hook it up and you’re there. It’s smart and cool.

I’m convinced this application will only expand in use among higher education institutions. It makes sense. Easing family stress during the college search process while enticing prospective students is a win-win. But please don’t let it replace a real visit if you can. VR tours are almost like being there.

While they do provide a realistic preview, VR tours – in any form – don’t provide the chance to interact with students in the hallways, to taste cafeteria food, and to actually feel that the campus culture and vibe is the right one for your teen.

My recommendation; traveling to college campuses during the early part of your search can be a valuable tool that helps your family understand the varied types of college campuses to choose from. Then, when its time to really make a decision, it can be the exclamation point on their search.

Want to learn more about the different types of campuses? I’ll address it in my next post. In the meantime, make sure to follow Art.College.Life. on facebook and twitter for all the latest news.

How Can A Dorm Influence Fit?

SVA dorm room

SVA dorm room

I often write and talk about fit; encouraging families to find colleges that have the right blend of academics, environment, and community to meet their needs. Cost, distance from home, and comfort need to be included as well. The key is to weigh all of these – mostly tangible – elements until you come up with the place that just feels right. That’s logic transitioning into a gut instinct.

Just as fit is important to you, it’s also important to college administrators and professors. They want students who fit what they’re teaching, in the way they’re teaching it. They want contented, energetic and engaged students to walk their hallways.

So how do you find your fit and how do colleges find theirs? As I stated, numerous factors combine to create the best fit. We’ve discussed many of them at Art.College.Life., and will continue to do so. But today I’m gravitating towards comfort and what creates that “feels like home” sensation. Blame it on “back-to-school” season, and the catalogs from Target, The Container Store, and Bed, Bath & Beyond that have stuffed my mailbox…

SAIC dormitory studio space

SAIC dormitory studio space

Comfort comes in many forms. One way to experience it on campus is in dorm living. You may scoff at the idea that a college dormitory can influence college choice, but the reality is we’re all comfort-seeking creatures. Institutions work hard to create environments so students can envision themselves on campus. If the design, proximity, or offerings of a residence hall can help, that college is one step closer to creating a good fit. Naturally, spruced-up dorms are coveted. Most that exist still have cinder block walls, bunk beds, and showers down the hall, but that doesn’t mean they’re unhappy places. Plenty of great friendships continue to be built and great careers continue to be launched in new and old dorms alike.

I wrote about Cleveland Institute of Art’s new freshmen-only dormitory last month. Also new this year is Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s (MIAD) apartment-style residence hall, directly across the street from the college’s main academic building. This multi-use facility houses 75 fully furnished, two-bedroom suites and has 5,780 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The new apartments offer the latest in amenities; a wide-screen TV, a fully equipped kitchen and living room, and a bathroom attached to each bedroom. Best of all, students will be able to display their work inside and outside the building.

For art students, design and display space inside their dorm is a coveted feature. So is close proximity to on-campus studio space, especially in environments with inclement winter weather. It’s not like when I attended college, lugging portfolios across campus, then on the bus, in the rain; but that’s another story for another day.

From personal experience I can say that creature comforts can be found in any style dorm or living environment. Of course, it’s the people and friendships that make it memorable. But it doesn’t hurt to have accessibility and the latest offerings either. Whether your student is moving into a new residence hall or an old and well-loved dormitory, make sure you take the time to see what each campus offers. Even those that have been well-loved can check the box to ensure a good fit.

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