What Art & Design Students Need to Know About RIT

I know, I know. An institute of technology is not the most obvious place to find a top arts program. Most likely it’s not even on your radar. Right? Well, it should be!

cias-twitter-logoAfter an in-depth tour of the College of Imaging Arts & Sciences (CIAS) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) last month I came away thoroughly convinced that this is a great school for visual artists.

Despite its name, artistic learning has been part of RIT since it’s founding in the 1820’s. Today, CIAS encompasses roughly 2,000 of the 15,300 undergraduates on campus. That means visual arts students can benefit from the intimacy of a small college and the resources of a large research university.

CIAS boasts high retention rates, and both the university and the college continually receive high rankings. Clearly, they’re doing something right.

Abundance of available photography equipment

Abundance of available photography equipment

The School of Design is the largest school in the college and it provides a wide path of instruction in 2D, 3D, and 4D design. Emphasis is on designing for process over product and using technology to connect to real world experiences.

Photography looms large on campus. That makes sense when you realize this is the land of photography and print pioneers Kodak and Xerox. Students in the School of Photographic Arts & Sciences start with a comprehensive introduction to the field. As Susan Lakin, program chair for Advertising Photography further explained, “RIT has so many facets of photography available. Students discover the field and its broadness, then are able to explore a multitude of options to discover what their interests are.” Those options include everything from fine art and commercial applications to integration with journalism, business, and science. 

Zara Davis, sophomore ceramics major

Zara Davis, sophomore ceramics major

Another distinguishing program on this technology-focused campus is the School of American Crafts. Seriously. As with other majors, students studying artistic craftsmanship are focused and dedicated. The program has a rigorous studio requirement and includes a year of business courses in preparation for a career in the arts.

Engagement with the real world is built into the curriculum here. Co-ops and time abroad are both highly regarded and highly encouraged. Creative Industry Day, an annual event, promotes portfolio reviews and networking with creative industry professionals.

It’s difficult to gain acceptance into CIAS, which is foretelling that you’ll be challenged once you’re in. Over and over during my visit, I heard that dedication, passion, and focus are required for success. But the benefits are clear and enormous. Artistic mastery, a career-focused education, and a job after graduation. I hope you check it out.

Glass in the Midwest

glass blowing 1I had a chance to visit Louisville, Kentucky this weekend. A nice weekend of exploring led to an appreciation for the city’s growing arts community. On Saturday I toured the Glassworks building – which shows off the city’s true support for glass arts. Claiming to be the only facility of its kind in the country, it houses two glass galleries and two working glass studios alongside the Mark Payton Glass Center, which offers tours, walk-in workshops, and the opportunity to create kiln-fired, fused glass projects. The artisans of Payton Flameworks studio make detailed, delicate creations by flame working with a torch and hot glass. Those at Flame Run studio blow hot molten glass into breathtaking works of art. (Don’t try this at home!)

Just a few blocks away is the University of Louisville’s Cressman Center, which houses the Hite Art Institute – U of L’s Department of Fine Arts. The close proximity is no accident. U of L students studying glass can see a potential career path right down the street.

As part of Uof L’s study of art, students can choose a BA or BFA. The former is designed for those looking for a broader exposure to studio work, while the latter is geared towards those with professional ambitions who want more in depth study. BFA students interested in glass can customize their degree to focus on glass alone or work cross-media, taking courses in several studio areas. The program teaches the fundamentals of hot, warm, and cold glassmaking techniques, emphasizing the historic and contemporary context of glass art.

glass blowing in classInterested in glass but want to know your options? Check out these other Midwestern programs.  There are private and public programs represented, giving you the option to choose all-in glass, or combine it with a comprehensive liberal arts education. They all sound fabulous to me. I’m guessing at least one of them will click for you.  

             Ball State University

            Centre College

            Cleveland Institute of Art

            College for Creative Studies

            Ohio State University

            Southern Illinois University at Carbondale