Faculty

Im in love with an art professor iphone caseLet’s be honest; when it comes to the list of things that will influence your college selection the professors on campus probably won’t be near the top. You’ll consider which programs are taught, cost, location, the prestige of the college, and the comfortable feeling you get on campus. And you should. Maybe, somewhere near the bottom of the list might be – “how good is the faculty?”

I’m here to suggest you move them higher up your list. Why? Your college professors have a lot to do with your future. They’ll probably become the most influential people in your artistic college life. The challenges they put in front of you will guide and shape your creative development. They’ll motivate and mentor you; shaping the direction your art takes. Some will help you find future jobs – and your career path. Others will become friends.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to assess which ones are the best, and which ones you’ll connect with before classes begin. So, what to do? The good people at Design Intelligence (DI) have done some of the work for you. As in previous years, the DI staff, with input from “thousands of design professionals, academic department heads, and students,” has created a list of the 30 Most Admired Educators of 2014. The list includes educators and administrators working in architecture, industrial design, interior design, and landscape architecture. Of note; 80% on the list work at public institutions.

Other online searches should begin with each college’s website. Whether illustration or fashion design is your passion, research the faculty members. Google them. Look at their bios. Do any have experience in an area of interest to you? Check out their work. Other resources to consider include Rate My Professors and College Prowler. The former does just what its name implies, with the ratings and comments coming from current and former students. College Prowler offers even more detailed information.

My favorite suggestion for finding out about a specific college applies here as well; visit campus. In addition to all the other benefits you’ll gain, you can make an appointment to meet with a professor or sit in on a class to see how they really operate.

Sad but true, when it comes to professors, there will always be the good, the bad, and those who should have retired already. But, by spending time researching the faculty members at your choice colleges, you’ll gain a better overall understanding of each institution, and you’ll have a better chance of finding your best college fit.

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SAIC: A Clear Mission

fvnma_taping2 from SAIC websiteEvery institution of higher education has its own mission; a singular statement of purpose that speaks to their raison d’être, or reason for existence. How they interpret that mission, and deliver their educational objectives to their students is what intrigues me. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, SAIC, follows their own path. And, as a consistently top-ranked art college they must be doing something right.

Here are some distinct, core characteristics that caught my eye:

  • SAIC believes in exploration. That’s why their students don’t declare majors. They choose to focus their studies in one area or create their own concentration from among 18 intermingled departments. If graphic novels and critical studies are a passion, combine them here. If writing and fashion design is your preference, that’s possible too. Students are encouraged to stretch and experiment across disciplines. The sky’s the limit.
  • Art is subjective. You know that, I know that, and so does SAIC. That’s why their students are graded on a credit/no credit basis. The college utilizes frequent critiques and portfolio development to help build independent, creative thinkers in its studio courses. A strict class attendance policy ensures focus and participation.
  • logo -Right from the start freshmen at SAIC jump in with both feet. The college’s rigorous program is comprised of 16.5 credit hours the first semester and 15 the second. Students gain an “overview of surface, space and time, and how they interplay and connect with each other in year-long Core Studies and Research Studies classes,” explained Andrea Tarry, Associate Director for Undergraduate Admissions. A complementary, one semester course, Wired, teaches students how to use their computers as artistic and design tools. Additional requirements are English First Year Seminar, Art History Survey, and a studio elective in a department of their choosing. “We want students to begin exploring their personal interests right away,” offered Alexander Zak, Assistant Director for Undergraduate Admissions.
  • A new perspective is a good thing, and the school wants its students to see the world from different perspectives. So much so, that six credit hours of off-campus study are required for graduation. They could come in the form of a study abroad program, a co-op internship, a three-week study trip, or classes at another university. Inspiration is the goal here. Experiencing the world from varied vantage points will affect how you think, how you act, and how you create. Numerous scholarships are available to help pay for the experience.

 SAIC offers vast resources to its students and alumni, and I’ve only skimmed the surface here. I hope to explore more in the future, but in the meantime I’d suggest you go exploring yourself. Visit the Windy City. Get inspired and see what this creative institution has to offer.

Image courtesy of SAIC. Don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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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Design and Business: Together At Last

Take note: Ringling College of Art and Design offers a Bachelor of Arts in the Business of Art & Design.  In fact, they’re currently the only art and design college with a combined art and business program for undergraduates.

In 2008 college president Dr. Larry Thompson acted on the need to combine business and art under one roof. He brought Wanda Chaves to campus with the simple goal to “help students understand the business side of creative industries.” Since then the college’s unique program has taught students the immeasurable value gained from integrating art and business. Through courses, companies eagerly wanting to be a part of the program, and the resulting graduates employed in creative positions, there is proof that Thompson and Chaves have hit onto something successful. The school is leading the way, by building an environment where students acquire business skills in a creative context.

logoInnovative giants Hasbro, Microsoft Game Studio, Disney Imagineering, and Cirque du Soleil have each dedicated a year to give Ringling students real-life challenges and experiences that require combining their knowledge of the creative world with the real world of business. This coming fall Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Studio will take their turn.

Coursework is competitive with that at other business schools, and all faculty members are PhDs who have taught in other business programs. Yet the curriculum is balanced. It begins with one business class the first semester and builds to a total of 18 throughout the program, combined with studio and liberal arts classes. Accounting principles, managerial statistics, and marketing coexist with art history, drawing, math, and writing for designers. Specific business classes include Introduction to the Business of Fine Art, Leadership in Creative Environments, and Organizational and Management of Art and Design Businesses, providing students with the ability to explore a variety of career options.

As Wanda explained it to me, “students team up on projects across disciplines;” interior designers with animators, graphic designers and illustrators. One culminating experience is the Senior International Management class. When a Disney Imagineer came to campus students were challenged to design a resort or a mixed use retail and entertainment space. Design and business decisions affected every aspect of their projects. What role does location play in the experience? How do tourism and different cultural values affect the layout of a resort? How does design impact the experience? How do you successfully set up a business and manage people internationally? Students are taught to think strategically and incorporate newly gained business knowledge into the creative process.

The implications of this type of education are almost endless; internships and jobs follow graduation. But what I find most interesting are the students who now have the creativity and understanding of art and design, alongside the business skills and confidence to create their own opportunities. Whether working independently, for a museum, or as a creative asset in a large company these students have a more comprehensive – and complex – set of tools to bring along on their career paths.

Wanda Chaves said it best, ““Opportunities for our students are wide open.”  I hope students and other schools are taking note.

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