Look who’s advocating for the arts?

I know that I promised a post about Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art this week. But, I happened to find inspiration for art.college.life. in two unexpected places, so CMU will need to wait a week. I hope you’ll forgive me.

It’s not every day – ok, it’s rare – to find artistic vision from political columnists or corporate magazines. This past week provided those exceptions.

follow your passion signDavid Brooks is a well-known conservative political and cultural writer for The New York Times with a long-standing resume. In Friday’s newspaper, he wrote about the passion-driven among us, and the benefit they bring to the rest of society. Nice words to hear for those driven to study the arts.

I also stumbled across an article on Forbes.com highlighting the benefits of an art degree. And the strong career opportunities that lay ahead.

Hello? Where am I? Have I fallen into an alternate universe?

human figure2In this day and age when studying math and science, and earning a large salary still dominate conversations for career-focused high school parents, it’s encouraging and refreshing to hear from two business savvy representatives of the value – both now and for the future – of “leaning in” towards the arts.

Skepticism is common among parents of those wanting to study the arts. I get that. To me – these two articles speak to allowing our kids to be who they are, giving them the room to find themselves, and accepting that studying the arts can lead to incredible and challenging future careers. I know that sounds counter to common belief. I hope you’ll read both articles. And let me know what you think.

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5 Tips From Portfolio Day

Portfolio Day review

Portfolio Day review

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to observe Portfolio Day, up close and in person. What a great experience!

Sitting alongside Thom Glick, CCAD’s Associate Director of Admissions, I witnessed first-hand, how beneficial the advice and guidance of a good counselor can be. Thom will be offering up his own portfolio guidelines for burgeoning creatives in a future blog post, but for now I wanted to share my take on a few of the tips he handed out for those working on their portfolios.

1 – Try to focus your work. Most colleges are looking to see your skill level as well as your passion. If you concentrate your work in the areas you’re most passionate about, admissions personnel will be better able to guide you towards a more successful college path.

2 – Work to develop your own voice. This sounds easy, but takes time and dedication. It’s about expressing what you see and how you see it. We all have artists, artwork, and design styles that influence us. Creating your own voice begins with finding the multiple influencers that speak to you, then interpreting them, and incorporating that interpretation into your own work. Thom Glick said it clearly. “Don’t copy exactly what you see; find multiple influences, make them yours and your style will develop.” Clara Lieu is a visual artist and Adjunct Professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. She describes it this way; “the best way to find your own individual style is to try out as many different ways of working as possible.”

3 – Having a theme can be a good idea. That doesn’t mean paint only trees, but maybe nature and scenery in different seasons, from different perspectives, created using different mediums. Stretch yourself. Nature can also be portrayed as a hurricane-damaged environment or new growth after a wildfire. Consistency shows planning and forethought which means you’re filtering and thinking strategically. Admissions personnel and professors love to see those traits and skills.

4Your work doesn’t need to be finished. Well, not all of it at least. But including unfinished work actually shows professors how you think, how you process, and what draws you to a subject matter. Besides that, your goal is to attend college so you can perfect your artistic skills. They don’t need to be perfect when you walk in the door.

CCAD Portfolio Day 2014

CCAD Portfolio Day 2014

5Review your portfolio. And as you do, ask yourself does this reflect my interests? Does it line up with what I want to study and create? If fashion design is your thing and you only draw static items (think: classroom still life) you’re not expressing what sits at the core of fashion: people and clothing that move. Taken a step further, you’re also not expressing your stated interest. That sends a conflicting message to those reviewing your portfolio.

For objective advice and counseling, Portfolio Day is a slam dunk! Sophomores, juniors and seniors can all benefit from the time invested. Find one near your neck of the woods, grab your portfolio, and go visit. You won’t regret it.

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More Ways To Get Inspired

Courtesy of Art Center College of Design

Courtesy of Art Center College of Design

Fall has definitely arrived. My front doorstep is beginning to pile high with leaves, and my inbox is overflowing with emails from colleges and universities. The change in season seems to kick-start the collegiate lecture and workshop circuit, just when I’m looking for some artistic inspiration and am ready to spend more time indoors. Perfect!

Colleges and universities show off their smarts by hosting community-gathering events, led by some very talented and creative individuals. What a great way to learn from those who are working in the arts, creating opportunities, and pushing boundaries. Here’s a chance to broaden your horizons, change your perspective, and get inspired.

I’ve highlighted some individual events as well as entire series’. Make sure to check them out, and do a bit of digging in your own backyard.

Pratt – New York
The Art of Dining: How Master Chefs and Designers Collaborate (October 23)

Columbia University – New York
School of the Arts
Fall 2014 public programs

University of Wisconsin – Madison, WI
Visiting artists 2014-2015
Holland Cotter, Art Critic for The New York Times (October 30)
Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160; 6:00 pm

Southern Methodist University – Dallas, TX
Meadows School of the Arts
Fall 2014 Lecture Series

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts – Philadelphia, PA
Visiting Artists Program

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Tips To Keep You Creating

boy drawing by accurasee art productsMaking a living from your creative work is exhilarating. Whether you’re a designer or artist, the thrill is the same. A client selects your design because it expresses their message clearly and precisely; it delivers the picture that is “worth 1000 words.” A buyer connects with your artistic expressions; he gets what you’re communicating. It’s invigorating, rewarding, and motivating.

Living off your creative endeavors can also become discouraging and disheartening at times. If your message isn’t getting through, your career isn’t progressing as quickly as you thought it would, or the paperwork and business side of promoting yourself becomes overwhelming you can get discouraged and possibly question why you should continue. It can become frustrating and even depressing, no matter where you are in your career.

colorful-sculpture_500x454Illustrator and fellow blogger, Kate Leonard has some great tips for working through those discouraging moments, and keeping your eye on the prize that is your unique creative perspective. I thought they were worth sharing. An invigorating kick in the pants, so to speak. Hope they entice you to keep creating!

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How Can A Dorm Influence Fit?

SVA dorm room

SVA dorm room

I often write and talk about fit; encouraging families to find colleges that have the right blend of academics, environment, and community to meet their needs. Cost, distance from home, and comfort need to be included as well. The key is to weigh all of these – mostly tangible – elements until you come up with the place that just feels right. That’s logic transitioning into a gut instinct.

Just as fit is important to you, it’s also important to college administrators and professors. They want students who fit what they’re teaching, in the way they’re teaching it. They want contented, energetic and engaged students to walk their hallways.

So how do you find your fit and how do colleges find theirs? As I stated, numerous factors combine to create the best fit. We’ve discussed many of them at Art.College.Life., and will continue to do so. But today I’m gravitating towards comfort and what creates that “feels like home” sensation. Blame it on “back-to-school” season, and the catalogs from Target, The Container Store, and Bed, Bath & Beyond that have stuffed my mailbox…

SAIC dormitory studio space

SAIC dormitory studio space

Comfort comes in many forms. One way to experience it on campus is in dorm living. You may scoff at the idea that a college dormitory can influence college choice, but the reality is we’re all comfort-seeking creatures. Institutions work hard to create environments so students can envision themselves on campus. If the design, proximity, or offerings of a residence hall can help, that college is one step closer to creating a good fit. Naturally, spruced-up dorms are coveted. Most that exist still have cinder block walls, bunk beds, and showers down the hall, but that doesn’t mean they’re unhappy places. Plenty of great friendships continue to be built and great careers continue to be launched in new and old dorms alike.

I wrote about Cleveland Institute of Art’s new freshmen-only dormitory last month. Also new this year is Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s (MIAD) apartment-style residence hall, directly across the street from the college’s main academic building. This multi-use facility houses 75 fully furnished, two-bedroom suites and has 5,780 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The new apartments offer the latest in amenities; a wide-screen TV, a fully equipped kitchen and living room, and a bathroom attached to each bedroom. Best of all, students will be able to display their work inside and outside the building.

For art students, design and display space inside their dorm is a coveted feature. So is close proximity to on-campus studio space, especially in environments with inclement winter weather. It’s not like when I attended college, lugging portfolios across campus, then on the bus, in the rain; but that’s another story for another day.

From personal experience I can say that creature comforts can be found in any style dorm or living environment. Of course, it’s the people and friendships that make it memorable. But it doesn’t hurt to have accessibility and the latest offerings either. Whether your student is moving into a new residence hall or an old and well-loved dormitory, make sure you take the time to see what each campus offers. Even those that have been well-loved can check the box to ensure a good fit.

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