Another Rocky Mountain High

While soaking up the Colorado sun last month, I did some research into Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, a small, for profit, art school tucked into the western suburbs of Denver.  Offering classes both on campus and on-line, RMCAD provides opportunities for those choosing a more flexible learning environment.   With a student population of just 700 this might be the ying to UC Boulder’s yang.  RMCAD offers seven art programs – mostly for those seeking a BFA.  The most popular are the BA or BFA in Graphic Design and the BFA in Illustration.  According to admissions counselor Alicia Wheelock, RMCAD is the only stand-alone art school in the state that is NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) accredited.

This small campus has no on-campus housing but dorms and apartments offering discounted RMCAD rates are just 10 minutes from campus.  The school has a strong connection to art culture in Denver, a good place to be a working artist.  And just up the road is Boulder, named the most creative city in the country by The Daily Beast

500 Days of Summer?

UC Boulder art building & art museum

Well, not exactly, so how about 300 days of sunshine?  Every year.

I had the chance to visit the beautiful town of Boulder, Colorado last month and that’s what I found. Not a bad place to attend college! OK, full disclosure: I considered attending the University of Colorado Boulder back in the day. But that’s a story for another time.

If you’re looking for an art school in Colorado you have a number of options to choose from. UC Boulder is a large, public, research university on a beautiful campus at the base of the Flatiron mountain range. The aptly named Art and Art History department offers degrees in Art History and Studio Arts in the new state-of-the-art Visual Arts Complex. BA’s are common; getting into the BFA program is more difficult. For a BFA you’ll need to be a UC student with a minimum of 30 hours of Art & Art History courses under your belt and then go through a rigorous selection process. Few are accepted. Studio Arts disciplines include: Ceramics, IMAP (photography, digital media, video, integrated arts), Painting and Drawing, Printmaking, and Sculpture and Post-Studio Practice.

Laura Shill, the IMAP lab coordinator gave me a tour of some of the labs and shared with me how influenced they are by changing technology. “Taking risks with new technology is what students want,” she said. With each new year of students come fresh ideas, and the program adapts to those requests. A New Directions of Photography class is blending 21st century technology with antiquated processes. It’s a “collapsing of the centuries” she added. Students produce contemporary work, yet because they incorporate old world techniques they become aware of the traditions that paved the way for today’s medium.

Around 1000 students are in the undergraduate program, plus an additional 50 grad students.

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!