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.

3 Paths to an Art Degree

Oregon State University

Oregon State University

Want to help your artistic son or daughter find the best college fit? Two key decisions made early in the search process can lead to a simpler and less stressful college search. Help them figure out what type of degree they want to pursue and what type of environment suits them best. The two go hand-in-hand, and it’s easier than it sounds. Here are three paths you’ll need to consider:

 

1 – Art and design colleges provide the ultimate in immersion. Most of your son’s time will be spent studying the arts, just like all his peers. Living and breathing art and design, and preparing for a future in the field are the focus here: 24/7. This is study with commitment. Roughly two-thirds of your teen’s time will be focused on the arts. Math, science and humanities play supporting roles, with subject matter that informs the arts. A BFA is most common.

Kenyon College

2 – One-on-one attention is in the DNA at liberal arts colleges. The emphasis is on teaching strong foundational skills like writing, critical thinking, and communication. Classes are typically small, with lots of discussion and opportunity for professors to get to know their students. Approximately one-third of students’ study time will focus on the arts and most graduate with a BA. Students major in a variety of subjects.

3 – Amenities are the name of the game at large college campuses. You want it; chances are the university will offer it. Football games, fraternities and sororities, and an affiliation with every organization known to mankind come to mind. So do opportunities to study across fields and even create your own major; think design and engineering, or biology and art. Interdisciplinary studies create endless learning possibilities. And, once on campus, if your daughter decides design isn’t her thing, she’ll have a wealth of other majors to consider.

Maine College of Art

Maine College of Art

Getting clear about what your teen wants to study, and what type of environment will be best for them will get everyone off to a great start. Begin your family conversations early, and include a visit to each type of campus if you can.

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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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Liberal Arts

View of the Art Building from the Quad, University of Washington

View of the Art Building from the Quad, University of Washington

One of the many choices facing high school art students is whether to pursue an art education at an art and design school or at a comprehensive liberal arts institution.  There are pros and cons to both.

Differences begin with time.  Typically art courses at an art and design school take up about 65% of your class time.  Liberal arts courses take up the balance, about 35%.  The reverse is typically true at a liberal arts college or research university.

I’m a bit biased.  I received a degree from the University of Washington, a wonderful and large state institution in Seattle.  (2012 enrollment is over 42,000.) I lived alongside math majors, musicians, social scientists and pre-med students.  Fraternities, sororities, “the game” and yucky dorm food were part of my everyday lexicon.  OK, you can get the yucky dorm food anywhere – but you get my point.  My exposure to the world was diverse and expansive, and I thrived.  I was fortunate to have a fellow art major living down the hall from me, but that was just luck.

As I’ve stated before, at an art and design college you’ll have the advantage of living with other artists 24/7.  That means all the students you interact with see the world creatively – like you do.  And, they’re all there to focus the balance of their efforts on their artistic endeavors – like you are.

Art and design schools typically align their liberal arts courses around an artistic focus.  Examples might include a science course focusing on anatomy, giving students a scientific understanding of the human body to help with figure drawing and sculpture courses.  At Cleveland Institute of Art College of Art and Design an English course focusing on ancient and medieval philosophy and culture complements a simultaneous course in ancient and medieval art history, tying art to thought in the Middle Ages.  Their philosophy in connecting their courses is simple; “in order to create, you need not only art and design skills, but also the ideas behind them.”

One last element to consider is cost.  The expense of four years at college has gone up for everyone – and no institution is immune.  Keeping that in mind, many state schools are still less expensive than private colleges.  If a private institution is your choice, pay close attention to scholarship opportunities and deadlines.  Applying for and winning them could bring down the cost of your education into the “doable” category.