Denison University: A Liberal Arts Take on the Arts

Goldilocks knew what she wanted; it wasn’t too big and it wasn’t too small. “Just right” for her was in the middle. Many young artists and their families are searching for that same middle ground. Typically they find it at a liberal arts college. Size is important, but mostly what sways them is the one-on-one learning combined with the opportunity to integrate across the arts and sciences.

If that combination is what you and your teen are searching for, make sure Denison University is on your list. It’s one of the top liberal arts colleges in Ohio. 

Combining art and politics

Quality education, diversity, and integration are what define this college. Varied perspectives are alive and well here. The culture and academic structure are built on a dedication to interdisciplinary education and the core value of developing independent thinkers. Students are exposed to new ideas from multiple perspectives across the campus. Examples include the requirement that all students take at least two art classes (no wonder I like it!) and the school’s Queer Studies major. Quantitative understanding, power and privilege, and writing are the lenses through which all subjects are viewed.

There are approximately 80 students working towards a BA or a BFA in Studio Art, with an average class size of 18. The curriculum is purposely planned to build confidence. Students work individually and collaboratively, finding their own voices and communicating their own unique ideas along the way. The liberal arts setting requires they include oral and written expression as well.

(Denison University)

BA students frequently double major. Due to the emphasis placed on integrating ideas across departments, art and design students are encouraged to bring their creative viewpoints into their other classes. Consequently, each course becomes a learning lesson in how art and design affect the world – and vice versa. Common double majors include Studio Art with Communication, with Educational Studies, with Economics, and with Biology.

Those seeking a BFA apply into the program by the beginning of their junior year. Acceptance is dependent upon a presentation of the portfolio they created at Denison, along with an oral defense.

Seniors have their own studio space (Denison University)

Senior year is demanding. Students participate in a yearlong practicum, participate in a group show with juniors, and produce their own solo show with catalog and oral defense. The goal to develop self-reliant and independent artists seems to be working. Alumni are employed as designers, art educators, and architects, and those moving on to grad school have been accepted at top institutions across the country.

It’s clear that the Denison values the arts. At the January groundbreaking of the college’s new performing arts center University President Adam Weinberg affirmed that “more than 40 percent of Denison students participate in the arts in some way.” That includes literary, performing, and visual arts.

Bryant Arts Center, home of the Studio Arts program, was once the campus’s gymnasium, complete with swimming pool. Eight years ago this 45,000 square foot vertical facility was renovated into spacious and light-filled classroom, studio, and exhibition space, with obvious remnants of the building’s past.

(Denison University)

Study abroad opportunities are encouraged, but not before junior year. During sophomore year students begin working with the Off-Campus Study Center to locate the best options for their specific career and study goals.

Denison is located in the charming village of Granville, 35 miles from Columbus. Campus residency is required, which makes sense. It contributes to the tight-knit communal experience and the strong bond between students and faculty. Walking through Bryant Arts Center I felt I was on the set of “Cheers,” where everyone knew your name – well, at least the names of the professors and students passing by.

Last, but far from least to consider is the cost of attendance. Tuition for the Fall 2017 academic year is just under $50,000. But don’t be discouraged, Denison is committed to affordability and is known for the number of quality scholarships it offers. I hope you check it out.

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.

Learn more about the college search for artists & designers on facebook and twitter.

Choosing An Art School: 3 Things To Consider

How do you know which art and design program is best for you?  The search for the right college or university can seem confusing and overwhelming.  There are so many schools to choose from and a wide variety of issues to consider.  Some will require a bit of research, others will be more instinctual for you.  Here is a list of the top three I think you should consider.

  1. Major Decisions    Is Digital Media your thing? Or perhaps Art History or Interior Design?  Not all colleges offer every major.  You’ll want to consider schools that offer the areas of study that peak your interest.
  2. BA or BFA    Again, this choice will narrow your list of schools.  Different institutions provide different programs.   A BFA will require more studio time.
  3. Big Fish In A Little Pond    Is an art and design school what you’re looking for or would you prefer to integrate your studies within a broader liberal arts education?  The former will have you learning and living with artists 24/7.  At the latter you’ll attend classes alongside math and English majors while you follow your artistic passions.

There is no “right” answer to any of these questions.  However, once you begin to answer them you’ll be on your way to finding the right college for you.

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.