Crafting an Artist Statement

Lenivec (flickr)

The language of artists and designers is visual. Color, light, composition, texture, and dimension are the paragraphs and punctuation of our stories. Yet, working artists and college-bound creatives also need to rely on words to communicate our creative goals and vision.

That’s where an artist statement comes in. These useful tools help audiences’ access and understand the why behind our artistry. And, for many applying to college art programs, artist statements are an essential part of the application process.

So how do you create one and what should it include?

book of life, david kracov

Think It Through
Begin with some genuine self-examination. Artist statements are an introduction to your work. They explain your inspiration and your approach to making. Start by answering some tough questions:

  • What are you trying to express through your work?
  • What keeps you coming back to it day after day?
  • What influences you? (This could be anything from other artists to social issues, etc.)
  • What themes do you have running through your work?
  • What medium do you work in and why? What materials are essential to your toolbox?

Write It Down
Follow these few tips when putting pen to paper:

What to Write

  • Address why you create what you create
  • Be personal
  • Talk about your goals and what you hope to achieve through your art
  • Explain your choice of materials and your techniques
  • Share what you’re trying to communicate

monks cradle 2, tommy olaughlin and patrick dougherty

How to Write It

  • Be clear and honest
  • Write in the first person, using “I” instead of “you”
  • Be concise; 50-100 words is enough for a college statement
  • Stay away from clichés and artistic jargon
  • Don’t summarize your resume
  • Remember, this is about your work, not you

Crafting a well-written artist statement is a difficult yet very valuable exercise. Your written description will become an important link between you and your audience. And after you’ve presented it as part of your college admissions you can amend it for any future gallery or show submissions.

Good News For Fine Arts Majors

Boston College

Boston College

OK, here’s the truth: moms and dads worry about their children studying fine arts in college. It’s true. Questions surrounding what type of jobs they’ll obtain after graduation intertwine with concerns about future incomes and lifestyles.

But good news is here.

The Wall Street Journal recently touted opportunities for fine artists in “A Fine-Arts Degree May Be a Better Choice Than You Think.” Specifically, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce studied the satisfaction felt by fine arts graduates, noting that they’re not necessarily starving anymore, and are actually quite content with their chosen career paths.

The article goes on to mention the job opportunities available to fine artists, stating “almost 83% worked the majority of their time in some arts occupation, such as art teaching or in a nonprofit arts organization.” I believe the list of opportunities is even broader. The skills acquired while studying art – in time management, communication, collaboration, and problem solving – result in marketable combinations that large and small businesses clamor for, especially when combined with creativity.

Whether your journey after graduation is one of a working artist or along a different path, the skills you’ll gain majoring in fine arts will remain useful and valuable throughout your life.

Good news and a sigh of relief for mom and dad.

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Art Ed: Lessons To Learn

paint

I stumbled across a wonderful video on the web yesterday. It highlights Adelphi University students integrating arts and technology, all in the name of STEAM education. I’m a whole-hearted supporter of STEAM, but what truly caught my attention was the nuts and bolts of it all, and that the students in the video are studying art education and k-12 education. That got me to thinking about the many opportunities a degree in art education can provide.

The name Art Education (Art Ed) clearly depicts the multidisciplinary nature of the major. That same combination is mirrored in the job world. Graduating with a BFA in Art Ed leads to a number of career choices; some are traditional in nature and others born out of necessity to reflect our changing society. Teaching visual art to children in grades k-12 is the more traditional and common route. Licensure is required to teach in any state, and credential requirements vary. The school you choose will know what’s necessary to become licensed and credentialed in and around their state.

There is also a growing need to apply art education lessons through non-traditional means.  Museums and community organizations find themselves teaching art to students of all ages via gallery and museum education programming, and community arts programming – often after school or on weekends. Educators in these fields build upon their study of art history and the community to bring new perspectives and ideas to their diverse classrooms.

Like any art discipline, study begins with understanding the basics of drawing, painting, 2-D and 3-D design. It then moves on to include studio, education, art theory, and liberal arts classes. Most programs provide students with a broad, almost generalist, art education using diverse studio electives as the vehicles for wide exposure. Other programs prefer more focused learning by encouraging artistic development and expertise in only one area. Still other programs offer students a choice between the two. Additional coursework often includes a foreign language plus the study of human development and behavior, the intersection of math and art, hands-on fieldwork, and student teaching practice. The latter two provide essential real-world opportunities to make connections between creating and teaching by writing lesson plans, designing curriculum around the visual arts, and engaging with elementary and secondary students.

In addition to their in-depth integration of visual art and education, the programs I researched all have three common themes running through their programs:

  • Incorporate a multicultural perspective into their educational processes to meet the needs of today’s multiethnic and bilingual society,
  • Address the value and necessity technology plays in art education, and
  • Address the role art and design education play in culturally focused non-profit organizations.

Many institutions across the country teach Art Education, each one having unique attributes. I included MassArt, SAIC, CCS and Pratt – among others – in my research. You can start with them, but I’d also suggest talking to your high school’s college counselors and art teachers for recommendations. Join your school’s National Art Honor Society or National Junior Art Honor Society chapter, if it has one.  If not, look into getting one started.  It’s a great place to get involved and learn more about all types of art careers.

Good Things Come In Small Packages

450px-Art-Academy-of-CincinnatiThe Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) is a sweet gem tucked into the burgeoning Over-the-Rhine district of Cincinnati. I got the chance to visit in late spring, right after classes ended for the semester. But even then, the creative vibe of the school was still readily apparent. Amy Scarpello, a 2010 sculpture graduate of the school, was my tour guide.

The college moved to its current location in this trendy neighborhood in 2005. The campus core is comprised of two renovated warehouses, united by a light-filled stairway. A LEED-certified green building; it oozes creativity and culture in an urban environment.

AAC prides itself on its petite size and intimate, interdisciplinary education. According to Amy, the small student body of only 220 students makes it easy to build lasting personal relationships with peers and professors alike. Typical studio classes have 15 students and academic classes have around 18. Upper level courses are even smaller.

A 1:2:1 structure provides the core of the college’s curriculum. Year one unites freshmen as they take all foundation coursework together. A fine artist and a designer team teach the first studio course, exposing students to varying perspectives and disciplines from the get-go.

Limestone slabs in the printmaking studio

Limestone slabs in the printmaking studio

Years two and three afford opportunities to explore different media, dive deeply into a major, and gain proficiency. However, the emphasis is still on interdisciplinary learning. Students are required to take five studio courses within their major and seven outside of their major, providing them with the tools to express themselves across a multitude of visual languages, and from a variety of different vantage points.

Year four brings everyone back together again for seminar coursework, with the first semester taught by a fine artist and the second taught by a designer. Liberal arts classes are sprinkled throughout the program, with writing as a constant throughout.

Major areas of study include art history, drawing, illustration, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture (including ceramics), and visual communication design. Beginning this fall the school will add new classes in animation and film video.

One of the unique features about AAC is its plethora of off-campus experiences. In addition to internships – which are required for all students – the college provides access to art schools across the country and abroad. The New York Studio Residency Program gives selected students the chance to study at the School of Visual Arts for a studio-intense semester, and the AICAD Mobility Program offers the opportunity to learn at another AICAD school. The cost for either of these programs is a real bargain, as tuition is the same as attending AAC for the term. The college does not have its own study abroad program, but does help students connect to a qualified one outside of the U.S. Unfortunately, AAC scholarships are not applicable for outside programs.

Campus culture is all about engaging students – in creating art and with each other – from the beginning of their four years to graduation. One of the cool facts I learned about the school is that freshmen orientation purposely takes place on Final Friday when gallery shows are up throughout the neighborhood.  While walking around, freshmen get a chance to mingle with other students, orient themselves to a new community, and see their futures.

Design & Business: Moving in the Right Direction

I’m frustrated by the minimal attention given to the study of business in art schools across the country. It seems that too few schools value the mix of art and business. However, four programs that understand the benefits of intertwining the two caught my attention. Here’s the dirt I dug up on three of them:

CCAD - logoCCAD is undergoing a structural change in how they integrate business courses into their curriculum. Currently working from a professional practices model, students now gain business knowledge as it relates to their major – learning what it takes to be successful within that discipline. An example is Studio Professions for Fine Arts majors. It’s geared towards entrepreneurs, focusing on the business of making and selling art. Courses such as Professional Practice for Interior Designers, and Advertising Portfolio and Professional Practice follow a similar path.

The future looks quite different – and better from my perspective – as the school shifts to an institutional model where the curriculum will include key business courses. Business professionals have already joined the faculty, and individual classes in Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Business Law are now available as electives. As the school refocuses its educational model these five will become the rule, not the exception.

Vice President for Academic Affairs, Kevin Conlon, wants students to be prepared for careers as independent artists as well as careers outside of the creative community. To help integrate them into the larger marketplace, the school is on track to offer a “Business and Entrepreneurship” minor beginning in the fall of 2014.

logoOTIS has very few universal courses. “They’re very specific to the major,” stated Brooke Randolph, Assistant Dean of Admissions. “However, business and professional practice is built into everything we do here. Students aren’t entrenched in the theoretical; they’re engaged with practical creative challenges, producing work that prepares them for real jobs.”

When searching through their course listings I found proof to her statements, along with some very interesting requirements. Economics in the Product Market is required for all Product Design majors. The course is a survey of microeconomic principles like supply and demand, consumer preferences and costs – essential considerations to those creating new products. Toy Design majors are required to sign up for Business Practices, where they receive an overview of business strategy, economics, finance, and marketing, and then apply lessons learned to writing their own business plans.

A Professional Practice course is required for all Communication Arts majors, while those studying Digital Media acquire practical business concepts from accounting and personal finances to business communications and networking in Career Planning & Personal Management. Each course presents issues relevant to that particular marketplace, integrating business practices into the design process.

scad logoSCAD‘s mission states that the school “exists to prepare talented students for professional careers,” and I believe they do. At first I struggled to locate the business courses on their website, but I took advantage of the school’s online chat offering, and connected up with Joanna, an admissions representative, who pointed me in the right direction. The college follows the professional practice model, with a minimum of one business course associated with each discipline; some are required courses, and others are electives. An added benefit; some business classes are offered online.

Commercial Practices for Industrial Design, Business Practices for Photography, and Animation Professional Development are just a few of the courses I found for applied art majors. Fine artists will also get support and direction with the Illustration Self-Promotion course, Professional Practices for Fine Art Photography, and Fibers Portfolio Preparation.

And the kicker, SCAD offers a Business Management and Entrepreneurship minor, providing students with the fundamental lessons of art in the business world. Students not wanting to complete the full minor have a whole host of courses they can take individually.

CCAD, OTIS and SCAD provide a great representation of the varying type of business and professional practice courses available to art students. Each is serious about creating artists and designers who can successfully apply their crafts in the real world. I think they’re proof that we are moving in the right direction. Ringling College of Art & Design has taken it one step further. I’ll give you the low down next week.