The Sophomore Slump: 4 Tips To Keep Your Visual Artist Focused In High School

Typically referring to college, the sophomore slump can just as easily take place in high school. Even though high school has become a familiar place for your teen, now is no time to chill out. Colleges take sophomore year efforts and grades seriously. Your budding artist should too. So, how do you ensure that your teen avoids a second-year slump? A little bit of focus goes a long way.

Maintain your attention on grades. Colleges consider high school coursework and grades more telling than anything in their selection process. That being said, take note of the classes your teen is taking. Is she stretching herself artistically and academically? The most advanced studio and non-studio classes all have prerequisites. Honors Drawing and Painting preclude Studio Art and Independent Study just as Global History precludes AP U.S. Government. Now’s the time to reassess and refocus to ensure your burgeoning designer is on task to achieve her goals. Your high school guidance counselor and art teachers can help tweak her schedule and focus if needed.

NY Times

NY Times

Get ready for the SAT. Those bedeviling proficiency tests are looming. Whether an art school or university is in your creative’s future, taking them is necessary, and now is the time to get practicing. The PSAT and PLAN provide your teen with an introduction to the SAT and ACT exams respectively. These “practice” tests deliver real value: they lessen fears by getting your teen acquainted with what is unfamiliar and they convey an idea of the score range your teen can expect in next year’s real exams. Additionally, the PSAT is used to determine National Merit Scholarship awards. The PSAT and PLAN are typically taken in October. Check with your college counselor to know when your tests will be offered.

sophomore-yearEngage with your teen. Discover what he wants to study in college and uncover the type of college experience he envisions. Is a BFA or a BA the desired end result? The decision will impact the type of school he chooses. Does he prefer a large campus experience with a diverse student body and non-stop activities or will he thrive best in an environment that breathes art and design 24/7? Visiting colleges will give you and your student a sense for campus life as well as begin to define preferences for size and location. Pick diverse colleges to visit, make a plan about when you’ll tour, and use those long car drives to discuss his likes and dislikes.

Portfolio prep (c) ashcan school

Portfolio prep (c) ashcan school

Focus on portfolio development. This should be a top priority throughout high school regardless of where your teen applies. Many programs don’t require a portfolio for admission, but you’ll want to be prepared for either option. Also, just like muscles, repeated development and practice of artistic skills will only strengthen them. Your teen should be working with high school art teachers and engaging in outside artistic opportunities to broaden his abilities. Here the adage “practice makes perfect” definitely applies.

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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.

College Tour: Art Center College of Design

In early April, I toured the Art Center College of Design in California. Set in a single modernist Ellwood-designed building that spans a ravine in the hills of Pasadena, the aptly named Hillside Campus is a visual study in contrasts. Harsh steel and glass are surrounded by eucalyptus trees and fragrant sweet jasmine.

Art Center walkway 2

Ellwood Building Walkway

It’s difficult to gain acceptance into this selective school, often ranked at the top of many college search lists. The reward for getting in is hard work and readiness for the real world.

As one admissions representative said, “you’ll never work as hard in industry as you do here.” Kit Baron, Senior Vice President of Admissions explained the reasoning behind the schools demanding curriculum and structure, tying it to the college’s core mission. Art Center “was founded not as an atelier but for industry, to listen to what client’s want,” she said. Translation: the school educates and helps students transition into the job world.

An example of the school’s strength is their Transportation Design program, which is constantly ranked #1 internationally. That stellar rating is reflected in the fact that every major automotive manufacturer has had an Art Center alum as a design chief or leader. Think about that; every major automotive manufacturer.

Class time

Beyond transportation, Art Center has 10 other undergraduate programs leading to BFA or BS degrees. Students are guided and challenged by approximately 400 faculty members, most of whom are also working artists. Classes are taught on the semester – or term – system, with three terms per year. A completed degree is based on eight terms, which means that students can graduate in fewer than three years. Most don’t though, typically taking 4–6 years to complete their education. There is no foundation year here, meaning students must be focused when they begin, but they’ll get to spend more time dedicated to their majors.

The smartly and strategically structured Illustration Department is the largest on campus. Five tracks exist within the department, directing students towards entertainment arts, motion, design, fine arts, or surface design. Each has a unique focus, requiring a different set of skills to work in their respective industries.

One of the hottest new majors trending across the country right now is Interaction Design, and Art Center has it. New due to our tech-focused world, it’s the study of apps and interfaces.

model shop projects 2

End-of-year model shop projects

Beyond the Ellwood building and adjacent Sinclair Pavilion for relaxation, there isn’t much else to this campus, reinforcing the focus on creating art. Students live down the hill, in off-campus apartments. A short drive away is South Campus, where Fine Art and Illustration students study, alongside graduate and community programs. The school’s long-range plan includes building dorms there in three years.

Art Center is not for the indecisive or inexperienced. Applicants already have a defined proficiency and a sense of direction. Prospective students apply directly into a major. The college accepts students on a rolling basis with just a few admissions deadlines.

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Graphic Design Programs

GD USA is an excellent resource for those working in the field of graphic design. In January, the online publication spotlighted their top picks of graphic design students to watch. 29 talented individuals made the list as tomorrow’s trailblazers and game-changers. Their collective contributions and experiences are already quite impressive.

This month GD is following it up with a list of 35 colleges – the ones who’ve nurtured, supported, and guided the previously-listed top students, plus a few more outstanding schools. The list of programs is diverse, including non-profit, for-profit, art and design colleges, and public universities. It provides a clear testament to the wealth of quality graphic design programs across the country.

You may ask what is graphic design, and what career paths will be available to those studying it?

As far as careers go, the sky’s the limit. Graphic design is the sharpest tool in today’s design toolbox, used to communicate ideas and information. Through images and typography, graphic design informs, inspires, and persuades in every field imaginable. Science and technology, healthcare, entertainment, education, business, hospitality, and government all need graphic design to communicate, advise, and guide us.

If graphic design sounds like your teen’s passion, GD’s list is a great place to begin your exploration of “best fit” programs.

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The Battle of Versailles: A Fashion Evolution

Let’s see if you know your history. Does the 1973 battle of Versailles sound familiar? It won’t appear in most history books, but it was the year of an epic confrontation or contest, between the French and the Americans. And it changed the face of fashion, forever.

The battle – or faceoff as it was called – was witnessed by an exclusive list of 700 guests at Versailles Palace outside of Paris. But it was felt across the globe. A fundraiser to help restore the palace, it took the form of a groundbreaking runway show pitting five up-and-coming American designers against five top Parisian couture houses. Imagine a throw-down with Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, and Givenchy competing against Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, and Stephen Burrows. High style met new style.

The result was a tectonic shift in the fashion world: as the leading influence of fashion design moved from that which was strictly dictated by top designers and design houses to one that also absorbed and incorporated how women actually lived their lives.

Before then, Paris was fashion. Period.

Battle of versailles - fashionsizzle_dot_comRobin Givhan, Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic explains in her book The Battle of Versailles that Americans upended the traditional rules of fashion with a style and esthetic of color, jersey fabric, and movement. And, they broke racial barriers with an unprecedented 11 African American models. Clearly, it was an “aha” moment for the time. Fashion and culture evolved in that one historic event.

What’s the relevance today? Besides the value of knowing history is the awareness of how much fashion is influenced by the world around us. It evolves with us. That’s evident with each year’s New York, Paris, and subsequent fashion shows. And it’s apparent in the changing of the guard leading today’s top fashion houses.

Fashionista.com likes to keep its pulse on the fashion world, including fashion programs around the globe. If you think you may have a teenage trendsetter of your own at home make time to peruse their list of top schools. You’ll find some unexpected programs. Need further help deciphering the differences between schools, or how to organize your college search? Let me know. I’m happy to help.

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