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.

Guest Post: Studying Art – An Education In Critical Thinking

By Ellen Fraser

Elon fountain

Elon University

Like many students, when I went to college I had no idea what I wanted to choose as my major. All I knew was that I liked reading, writing, and history better than I liked science and math. A liberal arts college seemed like the best fit for me—a place where I could dip my toes into a lot of different disciplines. The first semester of my freshman year, I took an art history class. I decided this would be a good idea because I had always enjoyed history in high school. My favorite part of the subject had always been learning about the ways in which historical happenings influenced aspects of the culture in the place where these happenings, well, happened. Art—its genres, styles, and techniques—was included in this.

Often times, art history has this stereotype of being a class where students sit in a dark room, trying to prevent their eyes from glazing over as they stare at endless slides of ancient artworks that they are expected to memorize for a test at the end of the semester. Well, I went to college at a little school in North Carolina called Elon University, and at this school, I quickly learned that art history did not simply involve a dark room illuminated only by image slides.

logoThe art history program at Elon illuminated my mind. My classes and professors exposed me to art and artists from a variety of geographic locations and time periods. However, and more importantly, they aided in my learning of critical issues that occupy the minds of some of the greatest creators of all time, as well as the fact that works of art can be seen in a variety of ways, and that no way is more correct than another. Also, as a friend to many practitioners of studio art, I was always impressed with the way these students could articulate their concepts when showing their work at campus events. Not only were they talented creators, but they also knew how to talk about their creations.

I never was and (even after having finished my Bachelor’s degree in the subject) am still no artist. And by this I mean only not an artist in a literal sense of the word. Studying art in college taught me how to think critically, to see different perspectives, and to use my thoughts to be a better asker of questions and artist of the written word. These are all important skills to have as students leave college to work on being more aware participants in life. A degree in art, especially from a liberal arts university, can help to sharpen these tools.

Ellen graduated from Elon in the spring of 2014 and is now happily employed by a non-profit arts organization.

 

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Good News For Fine Arts Majors

Boston College

Boston College

OK, here’s the truth: moms and dads worry about their children studying fine arts in college. It’s true. Questions surrounding what type of jobs they’ll obtain after graduation intertwine with concerns about future incomes and lifestyles.

But good news is here.

The Wall Street Journal recently touted opportunities for fine artists in “A Fine-Arts Degree May Be a Better Choice Than You Think.” Specifically, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce studied the satisfaction felt by fine arts graduates, noting that they’re not necessarily starving anymore, and are actually quite content with their chosen career paths.

The article goes on to mention the job opportunities available to fine artists, stating “almost 83% worked the majority of their time in some arts occupation, such as art teaching or in a nonprofit arts organization.” I believe the list of opportunities is even broader. The skills acquired while studying art – in time management, communication, collaboration, and problem solving – result in marketable combinations that large and small businesses clamor for, especially when combined with creativity.

Whether your journey after graduation is one of a working artist or along a different path, the skills you’ll gain majoring in fine arts will remain useful and valuable throughout your life.

Good news and a sigh of relief for mom and dad.

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Guest Post: Cultivate Your Creative Skills

The-three-levels-of-creativity - colored

By Laura Young

Many of my earliest memories are of art. My family was into museums, botanical gardens, and classical concerts, so I started making art very early. Through grade and high school I enjoyed drawing and painting, playing the piano, and acting/comedy improv, but I always saw the visual and performing arts as a separate practice from my academics. Art was just something I did for myself, because it was fun and pleasing, and I didn’t think much beyond that.

When I applied to college, I didn’t want to apply to art school because I liked many subjects. At the nudging of a family member, however, I applied to UCLA’s art department, and to my great surprise, I was admitted. I had turned in a portfolio but my academics did not meet the average profile of campus, so their decision confused me. More than anything else, I didn’t know what I was good at. I had plenty of things that I liked to do, but I wasn’t an expert at anything, so I wondered what UCLA had seen.

The summer before college, however, the luckiest thing happened to me: I got an internship at Disney, with a woman named Peggy van Pelt. Peggy was an executive consultant at the company, and her expertise focused on creative people: how to understand them in order to ensure their happiness, productivity, and positive development. Peggy was the first person to tell me that while I was making art, I was also cultivating many powerful creative skills.

Now that I work with artistic students in the college application process, I often hear them worry that an arts degree isn’t “sensible”. I couldn’t disagree more! Here is a short list of what artists are good at:

– Problem solving – being able to approach an issue and come up with many solutions
– Working alone with minimal supervision
– Working collaboratively
– Working effectively and in a disciplined manner
– Multitasking
– Delivering articulate critique
– Accepting critique and utilizing feedback positively
– Being able to consider issues in the long run as well as in detail

Those of us in the arts have been listening with some amusement to the national discussion on how to develop leaders for the 21st century. Critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, creativity… artists are already fantastic at this. Of course, anyone could learn these important skills in any major, but for creative students, an arts degree program can be the best, most appropriate context to better identify and interact with the world.

So. My message to you is the same one I got from Peggy: you are already so good at so many things.  Go have fun figuring out how to implement your many talents! We’re waiting for you.

 

Laura Young is the Director of Enrollment Management at UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture. She can be reached at laura.miwha.young@gmail.com, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/lauramyoung/.

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