Who’s Teaching Creativity?

creativity-takes-courage matisse quote2Although the answer to that question isn’t everybody, I do wonder if we’re seeing the beginnings of a tipping point. More and more businesses are clamoring for creative employees, and universities across the country are starting to integrate the subject into their curricula. Hurrah! Are big business and big education seeing what art and design programs have known all along; that imagination and inventiveness are essential problem solving tools? Perhaps so.

Today’s online New York Times has an interesting article, Learning To Think Outside The Box, that fills me with encouragement. In it, author offers examples showing the University of Georgia, Penn State, and SUNY Buffalo/Buffalo State getting into the game with classes like “Introduction to Creative Studies” and “Creativity, Innovation and Change.”

Gerald J. Puccio, chairman of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State explains; “the reality is that to survive in a fast-changing world you need to be creative.” “The marketplace is demanding it,” he says. The article highlights a 2010 IBM survey of 1500 top executives that backs him up. It states that CEO’s believe creativity is “the most important leadership quality,” trumping other characteristics. The reason why is simple; in today’s complex world where ambiguity and complexity are the norm, out-of-the-box thinking and experimentation are essential for building innovative products, processes, and delivery systems.

einstein creativity quote 2How do they teach creativity? At Buffalo State the process involves clarifying, ideating, developing and implementing. Sound familiar? I guess design thinking isn’t just for Industrial Designers after all. Other programs focus on how to learn from failure. As artists already know, failure is just one step in the design process. Just think of the hours building and rebuilding that interior design model; of drawing and redrawing that still life; or of sewing and re-sewing that new jacket for your fashion design course. If at first we don’t succeed, we try, try again, experimenting and learning along the way.

All of this is good news. Businesses are beginning to grasp the value of a creative education.  And they’re starting to realize what we already knew, that creative people are imaginative and capable problem solvers.

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What Makes A College Unique?

Class critiques

Class critiques

One of my main objectives with Art.College.Life. is to try to identify the nuances that differentiate one college art program from another. It’s not always easy. Variables such as size, location and specialty are the obvious standouts, but delving deeper and learning more about each program brings out the true distinctions.

The Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning Department (DAAP) at the University of Cincinnati (UC) has found its place. The department participates in the university’s cooperative program (Co-op) offering students a real glimpse into potential careers while they’re still students. In existence since 1906, Co-op has become a mandatory part of the design curriculum. Beginning sophomore year DAAP’s fashion design, graphic design, industrial design, and interior design students alternate between semesters spent attending classes and working full-time in a professional area of interest. Integrating the two gives students the opportunity to apply classroom lessons to real-world situations, and bring on-the-job issues and concerns back into the classroom for further analysis and discussion.

Workplace assignments take place throughout the U.S. and across the globe. The list of companies and organizations in which DAAP students have engaged is impressive, including Abercrombie and Fitch, Fisher-Price, the Smithsonian Institute, and Warner Brothers Pictures. And, the benefits are fantastic; theory and practice live side by side as students gain first-hand experience, develop broad networks, and gain confidence in their chosen fields. The added time spent away from school means students take five years to complete their degrees, including summers. If cost is a concern, consider that Co-op students earn a salary during their working semesters.

Classrooms

Classrooms

Fine Arts and Art History majors aren’t left behind. Students here don’t have a cooperative requirement; however they are highly encouraged to intern or study abroad.

So how does DAAP fit into the big University of Cincinnati picture? UC is a public, land-grant research university located on 473 acres in Cincinnati, just north of the Ohio River. Its 42,000+ students divide themselvesinto more than 300 programs across campus. DAAP provides an intimate, liberal arts education inside the larger university context. Roughly 2,000 students study 10 undergraduate majors in four aptly named schools; Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning. The Design school engages about half the department with majors in Fashion Design, Graphic Communication Design, and Industrial Design. Art is comprised of Fine Arts and Art History; Architecture includes its namesake and Interior Design. Design majors graduate with a Bachelor of Science. Fine Arts graduates receive a BFA after four years; Art History majors receive a B.A.

UC_logoAccolades for the university are numerous. “Among the top tier of the Best National Universities,” claimed U.S. News and World Report in September, 2012. And Travel & Leisure magazine listed it as “one of the world’s most beautiful campuses” in 2011. Hitting even closer to home, the 2013 Design Intelligence survey ranked DAAP’s Industrial Design best in the nation, and Interior Design second best.

The news gets better once you’re actually on campus. According to Amberly Maryo, Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, 93.3% of DAAP students entering as freshmen in 2012 returned to the university in 2013. That’s the highest retention rate on campus. Clearly they’re doing something right!

As a parent of two college students myself, I understand the anxiety that accompanies the transition from college to the “real world.” Any help bridging that looming gap will be readily appreciated and welcomed with open arms.

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Study Abroad

Lucca, Italy

Lucca, Italy

I’ll take my inspiration wherever I can find it. And lucky for me, during the past couple of weeks inspiration has come from time spent in Switzerland and Italy. From the jagged Swiss Alps to the rolling Tuscan countryside and the azure waters along the Almafi Coast, nature was at her finest, showing off sweeping landscapes and breathtaking views. Complementing it all was the wonder of art and design depicted in centuries’ old sculpture, fresh off the runway fashions, and everything in between.

It got me thinking about studying abroad, and how just one semester’s exposure to a different cultural experience can positively affect your point of view – forever. I can think of no better way to gain a global perspective than by living and learning in a different county.

Consider fashion design in Paris or Milan, photography in the south of France, animation and illustration in Hong Kong. The benefits of studying abroad are endless. You’ll be challenged by new ways of thinking while you acquire new insights and skills, new inspirations, new connections, lifelong friends, independence and maturity, and possibly even a new language. And with direct exposure to art history, (yes that is Michelangelo’s David), and cutting-edge design that the U.S. hasn’t yet seen, (where do you think Smart Cars came from?), you’ll acquire an appreciation for multicultural differences and influences, and a clearer understanding of your artistic place in the world.

church details, Lucca, Italy

church details, Lucca, Italy

I’m not aware of a college or university that doesn’t offer study abroad options to their students these days. Research the colleges that peak your interest. Some will offer their own specific programs while others collaborate with international institutions. Also, make sure you understand which courses are available each year, and what credits are transferable back to your home campus. Again – costs will vary, but scholarships are available.

Here are just a few of the programs I researched. I hope you’ll examine them and others.

University of the Arts

Cleveland Institute of Art

SCAD

SVA

University of Michigan (where study abroad is a requirement for all art and design students)

The experiences you’ll have abroad will stick with you forever. Paintings, sculpture, hillside vineyards, store windows, tiny designer cars, leather goods, and the presentation of pasta on a plate all influence and are influenced by design and art. And I’m just talking about what I experienced in Switzerland and Italy. There’s a whole world out there to learn from. Go check it out!

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A Day in the Life: Fashion Design

Want to catch a glimpse of what art school is truly like, from the inside?  Check out “A Day in the Life,” a current art student’s perspective.  First up: Marsha, a Fashion Design major at MassArt in Boston.  When you’re finished reading I hope you’ll hop onto her blog site to see what she’s up to, and give her a “thanks for sharing.”  I also hope you’ll leave a comment to let me know what you’d like to hear next at artcollegelife.com.

A tree grows at MassArt (c) ElainePelz

A tree grows at MassArt (c) ElainePelz

This is my spring semester, sophomore year in the Fashion Design department.  I’m currently taking six classes; Pattern Drafting 2, Creative Fashion 1, History of Photo, Literary Traditions, Fashion Illustration 2, and Web Design.  I should only have five.  If it’s too much work I’ll drop Web design.  This semester my favorite required class is Creative Fashion 1. Our first assignment is the famous non-textile dress. We can choose anything we want to make this dress out of; I chose computer chips and cords. This class is considered a studio class and is 5 hours long. Usually in the beginning we go over what we are doing and watch a demo and then just work on our assignments. Our classes are really small, always under 20 people, so we get one-on-one help. After this class everyone is always coming out of it covered in glue, and staples stuck to everything. It’s just such a fun atmosphere and assignment.

The biggest thing I love about MassArt is being in such a nice city, being able to get anywhere by T and being able to walk to work.  I’m saving up money because I got accepted to Paris Fashion Institute(!) where I’ll go in this summer.

One thing I want to clear up is about the stereotype of “Art School.”  The work load is CRAZY.  Anyone going into art school thinking “oh this will be easy,” is totally wrong.  Go home.  I do more work than any of my friends that go to BU and Northeastern.  Our homework is not necessarily difficult, but it is time consuming.  Any given weekly assignments in any class could literally take you 10+ hours of work.  Because craftsmanship is always supposed to be at its highest standards most of the time if you mess up, you start over.  On top of studio classes all BFA degree students have to take all of the same standard academic classes as any other college kids.  But with this work load everyone coming out of the Fashion Department is an expert at what they do and prepared for any amount of work thrown at them.

And even though this all probably sounds terrible, I wouldn’t choose anything else because I love having my entire life being filled with what I love.  My 10+ hours on one assignment takes up my free time with sewing, drawing, and researching designers.  I’d be doing all that anyway because I love it.  In the short time I have been at MassArt I have realized how dedicated and passionate everyone is about what they do.  The people are all so different, fascinating, and random, which makes MassArt such a great place to learn from one another and to really express yourself.