A Passionate Future or a Practical One: Do Students Need to Differentiate?

Parents are frequently tested. It just comes with the territory.

Naturally, we want our college-bound teens to have fulfilling majors and careers. If their passion is in science, math, or engineering (STEM) then they – and we – are lucky. Those are the fields of the future we’re advised. That’s where the lucrative careers are and will be.

rightbrain-leftbrainBut what about our creative offspring, those wanting to study and build careers based in the visual arts? Can’t they also have fulfilling and lucrative careers? Should we advise them to follow their passions, or towards what’s deemed a more practical future?

The answers don’t come easily. Doubts and questions arise about the long-term consequences of following one’s artistic passion. Job opportunities seem fewer and the chance of making a living often seems questionable.

Young visual artists, designers, and their parents should know about a great opportunity that’s smack in the middle of the STEM world. It’s the junction where technology meets creative. An article in last month’s LATimes spells it out from the perspective of CalArt’s president Steven D. Lavine. “Arts educators and technology chief executive officers are acknowledging once again that the two fields not only work hand-in-hand but that technological advances are often nourished by arts-inspired creative methods and critical thinking,” the article reads. Bottom line: engineers, entrepreneurs, and those in the tech world need our creative kids.

I’ve waxed before about the need to merge right-brain and left-brain thinkers. Analytical and linear thinkers need creative designers who process information holistically, and vice versa. There is great value in combining these diverse perspectives. Visual artists naturally think outside the proverbial box. And, the skills they learn in college – beyond the artistic ones – of persistence, incorporating criticism into newfound solutions, and teambuilding are beneficial to solving the technical problems of today and tomorrow.

CalArts has promoted this cross-pollination for decades. Other colleges are recognizing the value as well. When searching for college options for your teen, make sure to inquire about each one’s approach to the collaboration of these two fields. You’ll find more opportunities for your teen’s future, and more peace of mind for yourself.

 

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Graphic Design Programs To Consider

clif bar logoGraphic design impacts our lives on a daily basis. You might even call it the daily deluge. It’s a part Facebook and the morning trip to Starbucks, the billboards and ads for the local restaurant or hospital that we absorb on the way to school or work, that afternoon Clif Bar or CocaCola, the FedEx or Amazon package that arrives on our doorsteps, and the movie and TV credits that introduce us to our late-night entertainment. It sets a mood and entices us to try something new.

 Prospective graphic design students have a wealth of college and university programs to choose from across the country. Degrees come in a variety of shapes and sizes, at art colleges, liberal arts colleges, and large research universities. Program titles vary as well, and are not always straightforward. Communication Design, Visual Communications, and Design and Technology are just a few of the programs I found.

amazon-logoSo how do you differentiate between programs and institutions? One tool at your disposal is Graphic Design USA’s 50th anniversary survey about the industry. Just out in October, it’s a good resource for identifying top graphic design colleges. Even better, it also delves into the most influential graphic design firms in the country, as well as favorite graphics projects and logos over the past 50 years. Basically it’s a ton of graphics fun!

 The magazine surveyed 10,000 working design professionals to get their results. Some of the choices aren’t very surprising, but I like the range, from art colleges to some of the country’s top comprehensive institutions. Here are the top 10. I hope you’ll seriously consider the full list as well.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

School of Visual Arts (SVA)

Art Center College of Design

Parsons The New School for Design

Pratt Institute

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

Yale School of Art

California College of the Arts (CCA)

SCAD Savannah College of Art and Design

Want more information? I blogged about Graphic Design last year as well; I hope you’ll take a look.

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AP Scores: From The Inside Looking Out

In an earlier post I discussed AP Art History and AP Studio Art courses from the student perspective; whether or not you should take them, and what you get out of them.  Since that writing I’ve had the chance to research and talk with several art and design program admissions counselors to get their perspectives on the value of APs.  What I’ve found are parallel yet varied viewpoints.  Each school sets its own value on AP courses and each has a nuanced reason for that applied value.

Those who accept AP course credits equate them to courses taken at another college; they’re categorized as transfer credits.  Each AP course taken translates into 3 – 5 credit hours (depending upon the institution) that you’ve already completed.  Depending upon the type of AP you take – studio or academic – you’ll need fewer credits in that area of study in college.

MICA

MICA

Each school has a maximum number of transfer credits allowed per student.  Most likely you won’t hit that limit. Take Maryland Institute College of Art for example.  For academic AP courses with a score of four or five, they’ll accept a maximum of nine transfer credits.  That’s equivalent to three academic electives.  AP Studio scores also need to be a four or five, and are only accepted for art electives.  The difference is there isn’t a limit on the quantity of AP Studio credits that are accepted.  From talking with Taryn Wolf, MICA Director of Admission, I learned that applicants often take different AP Studio courses multiple years in a row.  The benefit of taking all those studio courses?  Well, besides fine-tuning your craft, they’ll help you create a portfolio theme.  And as Taryn explained further, “our higher scholarship winners have a cohesive work portfolio, usually with a theme, idea or style running through their work.” AP Studio courses provide the chance to develop your consistent theme or style.  The opportunity to win a scholarship is an added bonus; reducing the cost of your college tuition.

Ringling College of Art + Design

Ringling College of Art + Design

I haven’t found any schools that will accept AP Studio coursework in place of Foundation classes.  At Ringling College of Art & Design students are required to take all their studio courses on campus as well.  Eric Kaster, Assistant Dean of Admissions, likes the focus and discipline students acquire from taking AP Studio courses.  “However,” he adds, “ours is a very structured and stair step curriculum, and students who become exempt from studio classes often are missing critical learning practices necessary to their success at Ringling.”  AP academic courses with a score of four or higher in English Language/Composition and English Literature/Composition are accepted for academic course replacement.  All other academic AP courses are accepted with a score of three or higher.

Columbus College of Art & Design

Columbus College of Art & Design

Columbus College of Art & Design requires an AP Studio test score of five to be considered for elective credit, and a three or higher for academic courses.  Admissions Counselor Mike Bonardi explains how the credits are applied.  “Within studio art AP credit is transferred to required electives and not directly to a particular class.  Academic AP credit is transferred over directly to a required course where applicable. Otherwise [the student] will be awarded three academic elective credits.”  Again, when it comes to AP Studio the emphasis is placed on the value received from taking the course.  “Even if they have not met the score requirement it gives them a leg up with portfolio requirements,” added Freshman Admissions Officer Thom Glick.

Last week I profiled California Institute of the ArtsCalifornia Institute of the Arts.  CalArts is a very different school.  It attracts students who – almost exclusively – want a future built more around the theory, definitions and relationships of art rather than its technical applications.  According to Admissions Counselor Brian Gershey, they are “more interested in the creative content of work done in an AP Studio course” and less interested in final AP scores, giving the student’s portfolio and its accompanying statement the most importance.  That doesn’t preclude students from obtaining credit for top AP Studio scores, but it speaks to the emphasis placed on them in admission decisions.

From my findings, those on the inside looking out believe AP courses are worthwhile.  The many benefits include gained knowledge, skills and focus while still in high school.  To an admissions counselor that translates into a mature student, ready for the challenges and opportunities college will bring.  Add to that the potential financial benefits that accompany AP work and it seems like an easy choice to me.

A Disney Reality

CalArts campus

Walt Disney is well known across the globe for his creativity and vision.  His name conjures up images of characters that have become lifelong friends, of memorable movies and of theme parks that we want to visit again and again and again.  A lesser-known success story of his, one that deserves more attention than it gets, is California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), a small interdisciplinary art school located in Santa Carlita, California, about a half hour north of downtown Los Angeles.

In 1961 Walt Disney and his brother Roy founded the institute as the first innovative, interdisciplinary art school in the country, where visual and performing artists would study side by side and collaborate when they wanted.  To this day the genius behind the CalArts experiment is still thriving; giving artists the laboratory to learn from each other, integrate their art, and push their own study and medium beyond what is commonplace.

The school attracts and enrolls those who are self-motivated and already practicing what they want to do.  According to Admissions Counselor, Brian Gershey, “they’re open and curious-minded.  They’re interested in making personal work, experimentally, and want to be innovative, not just develop technical skills.”  With the exception of some animators, all students are conceptual artists.  That’s what I like to call creating “art, for art’s sake.”

Clearly, CalArts is not your typical art school.  It’s a fairly intellectual and cerebral place with a focus towards innovation.  There are no traditional foundation courses and students are encouraged to take risks.  Undergraduates come to campus already knowing how to create art – here they’re challenged to stretch and re-imagine it.

When I first learned about the school I mistakenly thought it didn’t have much structure.  Not so.  Varying by major, students are required to take a specific number of liberal arts courses, general studies courses (Critical Studies), and electives.  According to Stuart Frolick, CalArts Director of Print & Electronic Communications, “the structure is designed to give students freedom … to explore and develop their own creative voices.”

The campus houses six separate and rigorous schools: Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater.  Within the School of Art, theory and art history are incorporated into other coursework.  Sophomore year includes independent study, feeling more like a graduate program.

Undergraduate coursework leads to a BFA.  MFAs and doctorate degrees (Doctor of Musical Arts in the Performer–Composer Program in the Herb Alpert School of Music only) are also available.  Application requirements for individual programs include a portfolio of current work along with an artist statement addressing your influences, interests and current artistic direction.  Artistic submissions should be personal work not class assignments.  High school students need to take their academics seriously, however the school has no minimum GPA.  Faculty members are primary decision makers when it comes to accepting applicants into the programs.  They want to see what motivates and inspires you, and how you represent those interests artistically.  Tuition for the 2013-2014 academic year is $39,976.