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.

No Starving Artists Here

Vincent Van Gogh as a starving artist (The Bedroom 1888)

Vincent Van Gogh as a starving artist (The Bedroom 1888)

One of my pet peeves centers on the common misbelief that most artists are starving artists. I say Bah Humbug to that notion!

The reality is that artists can live – and thrive – if they’re got the right tools. Colleges and universities across the country have received the message that artists need to learn about the business of their passions, and are incorporating the appropriate courses into their curricula. Makes sense to me.

Accounting, intellectual property, and marketing are just some of the key tools necessary to create and sell your art successfully. The details include understanding how to best price your work, what your copyright and licensing rights are, and how to promote yourself.

My local paper, The Columbus Dispatch, recently addressed the subject in “Artists Learn How Financial Side of Business Works.” It delivers some good tips and a variety of viewpoints on the subject.

If art is your passion, make sure you take these words to heart: you will benefit greatly from learning about and understanding how to manage the business side of your creativity.
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Lessons I Learned In Art School

OTIS sophomore photography color project

OTIS sophomore photography color project

High school students face countless questions when choosing a college and career.  They often seem unanswerable, but they’re not.  The right answer is out there – you just might need to dig a while to find it.

Many questions circle around the idea of how an art degree will translate into a career.  Should you attend an art school? Or how about a more comprehensive education at a liberal arts school or a state university?  If you choose one of the latter two, can you still focus on your art?  Conversely, are you creating a problem for yourself if you choose an art school and later on decide not to pursue a career as an artist?

The short answer is that you can get an excellent art education at any of these institutions.  So here’s my take-away:  The skills you gain by studying art will help you in whatever career path you choose.

Have you heard of the saying “everything I learned, I learned in kindergarten?”  I might amend that to art school.  As an art major you’ll gain numerous invaluable skills (besides the artistic ones!) that are transferable into any field or career.

Here are my top four:

1 – Problem solving:  It’s plain and simple; as an art student most of your time will be spent solving problems.  They might not seem like it at the time, but you’ll constantly be making choices and decisions affecting the outcome of your art.  Through practice you’ll figure out the best way to break down a problem to its bare elements, and then piece it back together again.

2 – Working with others:  For group assignments, collaboration is key.  You’ll understand the true value of it as you learn from your classmates and depend on their strengths and timeliness, as they depend on yours.

3 – Time management:  Start with the large number of studio assignments you’ll have each week.  Then add in reading requirements and expectations for other classes.  Let’s just say you’ll gain a new appreciation for jugglers.

4 – Work ethic:  This encompasses a lot: your integrity and initiative, communication, a sense of responsibility toward others (and deadlines), and the quality you produce.  Are you putting your best efforts into it? Holding others up?  And yes, you will discard a completely acceptable creation because it’s not “right” for a whole slew of reasons, or you just know you can do better.

Once you’ve made the plunge enjoy your school choice.  You’ll find campus resources to help you sort out your career path.  At an art college you’ll have more dedicated faculty and staff focused towards your particular artistic journey.  Professors and those in the Career Services department make industry resources available, stay on top of industry needs, guide you towards internship placements, and will help you network with alumni.

Art majors go on to lead creative and culturally influential lives – in whatever fields they eventually pursue.  Artists end up working in the arts, sales, management, education, and healthcare – to name just a few.