How Artists Can Find a Meaningful Summer Experience

art-splattered-resumeBuilding a resume for college can seem overwhelming. Many parents become confused with the vast expectations put upon them and their college-bound teens. What should my teen focus on? Should she prioritize grades and test scores above all else? Should he allocate extra time to his art? What about extra-curricular activities, volunteering or work?

The seemingly endless questions could make you hyperventilate with anxiety but don’t. Taken one step at a time; there is value is each of these activities but it isn’t necessary for your teen to have them all. Admissions representatives repeatedly will tell you that grades, test scores, and a portfolio top the list. Yes, they want well-rounded teens who have been exposed to a variety of experiences, but they also favor students who are focused and purposeful in their endeavors and accomplishments.

With those confusing requirements in mind consider summer as an opportunity, a great time for your teen to further explore his passion for the visual arts while building his resume. Numerous summer opportunities exist for high school artists who want to explore their creative passions and expand their skill set while working, volunteering, or attending a pre-college program. Any of those experiences will positively impact a resume.

Pre-college Summer Programs

School of Visual Arts dorm room

School of Visual Arts dorm room

I’m a big fan of pre-college summer programs. They provide a wealth of opportunities. Teens typically live on campus, giving them a true taste of college life while they experiment with artistic approaches that are different from those they’ve practiced in high school classes. Instructors, who are working artists, can become mentors. More importantly, they provide a window into the real world of creative careers.

The downside to pre-college programs is that they fill up quickly. And, they can be expensive, at roughly $2,000-$6,000 for a two-to-eight week experience. Other options are available but will vary; mostly depending on which art form your teen is interested in pursuing.

Off-campus 

Disney's Fish Hooks

Disney’s Fish Hooks

So how does your teen prepare otherwise? For many majors the recommendation is the same, “draw, draw, draw.” Diana Lafyatis, children’s comedy director and writer for Nickelodeon’s Harvey Beaks and Disney’s Fish Hooks, and animation alum of the Art Center College of Design echoes that sentiment. “In animation, there is a heavy emphasis on drawing from life.” Her recommendation? “Bring along a sketchbook with you everywhere you go and continually draw the people and places you see.” It’s an excellent way to gain confidence in a skill set. The additional benefits are that many colleges encourage submitting sketchbooks as part of the portfolio application, and they want to see drawings specifically from observation not just what’s in your head.

Jaclyn Didas, RIT grad student

Jaclyn Didas, RIT grad student

Anne Holman, jeweler, and owner of The Smithery is a former college teacher herself. She’s experienced first hand how “translating a 2D drawing into a 3D piece of jewelry can be a challenge.” She suggests tapping into the programming at a local community center or even a local organization’s workshops in jewelry, sculpture, or 3D design to get over that hurdle.

Jane Lewis is a textile designer who began her craft drawing prints by hand but then quickly moved into digital design. Her recommendation for those serious about designing anything in print is two-fold. “Focus on your design and color skills in whatever medium you love – digital, watercolor, pastel, drawing, etc.” Then, if you don’t have the skill set already, make sure to learn graphic software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. “Even a base understanding of the tools in these programs will give you a huge leg up,” she added.

STACKED CUPS - WELLIE'S [Converted]Separate from making art, students can maximize their summer experiences learning about a specific field of interest. Examples include shadowing, interning, or volunteering. Students can reach out to intern at a local advertising agency, shadow a team at a fashion magazine, or approach an art gallery or photographer about volunteer work.

In-depth learning, experience, and exploration can be found via numerous avenues. Whether on campus or not, the idea is to focus on increased knowledge and skill development. At summer’s end, your teen will have a better understanding of future college and career goals, and she’ll have added one more thing to include in her resume.

Not To Be Missed: Design Meets Technology

3D printed arm, Artist Eric Kuester

3-D printed arm, Eric Kuester

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a variety of high school art groups during the past few months. A topic that has come up in each conversation has been the intersection where art and design meet engineering and technology, and the value added when these seemingly opposite fields combine.

These days, when thinking of technology and design our minds typically jump to smart gadgets: be they phones, watches or cars. An exhibit currently on display at Kent State University focuses on the more intimate and personal benefits of the times we live in; by highlighting the individual and life-changing enhancements that can be realized when left and right brain collaborate.

(Dis)Abled Beauty: The Evolution of Beauty, Disability, and Ability is a perfect depiction of this collective success. When working to improve life for the physically challenged, few in the past have paid close attention to aesthetics. But, to quote our newest Nobel Laureate in literature, “the times, they are a-changin’.” Thanks to both new technologies and greater attention given to creativity, newly available products include 3-D printed prosthetic arms and legs, custom-designed hearing aids, and garments that “button” magnetically to aid those with limited mobility and dexterity. Dresses have even been designed to aid the hearing impaired, and hearing aids have become unique artistic statements.

Clothing designs for disabled

Clothing designs for disabled

This is fashion forward thinking at its finest. (Dis)Abled Beauty provides a first-hand demonstration of the emerging creativity, beauty, and functionality that follow when art and design are considered part of the original development of a product.

Is the intersection of design and engineering something your teen finds intriguing? Then get their juices flowing by seeking out internships, summer programs, and colleges that offer both. In the meantime, check out the exhibit at the Kent State University Museum. It runs through March 2017.

Click on the catalog link for an expanded view of the exhibition.

7 New Year Resolutions Juniors Can Use

New-year-2016-imageThe start of a New Year always gets me energized. Perhaps it’s the idea of a clean slate, or more realistically what I didn’t accomplish last year that’s nagging me. Either way, turning the calendar page to a new beginning is an opportunity to refocus and start anew. Parents of high school juniors need to take this to heart: before this calendar year is out your teens will be applying to colleges, and making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. That sounds overwhelming and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The turn of the calendar also provides the opportunity to make a plan and focus on how you can keep your teen on task. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and if you guide your teen with reasonable and actionable goals they’ll reach the end of the school year feeling accomplished and on track. And, they’ll be a bit less stress and mayhem in your household. Here are some tips to get you both started:

  1. Junior year freak outKeep an eye on academics. There’s no doubt about it; junior year is tough. But to maximize opportunities, you’ll want to make sure you’re teen is stretching. That means taking – or on track to take – the most challenging courses in each academic area that she can. Grade point average is one of the most important factors that admissions representatives review when evaluating applicants. Honors and AP courses have weighted scores, which can help bring up GPAs.
  2. Not sure whether or not your teen is on target? Then make a date for a sit-down with your guidance counselor and learn your options. They are great resources.
  3. Paint, draw, sculpt, photograph, design, repeat. Building a portfolio is another top priority. The more your son creates now, the more his skills will improve. He’ll also have a larger selection of artwork to choose from when submitting his application portfolio.
  4. Plan ahead for standardized tests. If your teen hasn’t begun preparation for them yet, it may be crunch time. Prep tests and courses are ubiquitous. The new SAT debuts March 5th.
  5. Colleges also consider extracurricular activities. Has volunteering been a big part of your daughter’s life? Or has she worked through her high school years? Either way, colleges look for depth and consistency. Taking on leadership roles and positions shows dedication. Plan now for taking it up a notch during senior year.
  6. If you haven’t already started, make a plan for spring. It’s a great time for some serious college visits. The most optimal time to tour is when class is in session, i.e. not during their spring or summer break. But, realistically, that’s sometimes difficult. Information sessions and campus tours are invaluable tools for helping you better understand an institution, regardless of the time of year.
  7. Montserrat College of Art

    And if that’s not enough to keep you warm this winter, think summer! Summer college art and design programs, that is. Colleges will be posting their summer programs for high school students from now through April. Find your favorites, check back frequently, and book your slot quickly. The most coveted ones fill up fast.

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What do professors look for in a potential student?

Grit - Running up stairsWhile researching the variety of art colleges and programs across the country I get the opportunity to talk with a lot of admissions professionals and professors. From size to location and focus, they all share the same goal of guiding their students as they become productive and successful artists and designers. While each program is unique, they employ similar methodologies to reach their goals and objectives. One objective they share is to begin each school year with a class of motivated students.

Why? Research has shown that those who are motivated – driven and passionate about their path of study – will be the most successful in the long run. In today’s vernacular, “grit” is the term you hear most often.

Whether you call it motivation, passion, drive, or something else entirely, it turns out that grit greatly matters. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth has researched the subject extensively, and she shared her observations about the connection between grit and success at a TedTalks Education forum in April of last year.

Are you passionate about your art? If so, then make sure those at the colleges you apply to can see it. We all know that the things we’re motivated about are those we spend more time on. Put time and dedication into your work now. Search beyond your classroom projects to find opportunities to expand and challenge yourself. Your portfolio will be richer for it, and your investment will pay off when it’s time to apply to college.passion-wordle-1

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Benefits Of A Summer Program

Ringling College of Art & Design

Ringling College of Art & Design

I’d like to tell you that spring is in the air, but honestly I’m just not feeling it. Snow is all around and there isn’t a crocus or daffodil in sight. But spring and even summer should be on your mind because now is the time to plan for a pre-college art or design summer program.

During June, July and August, large and small colleges across the country offer one – to – six week opportunities for high school students to become immersed in a creative collegiate experience.  Depending upon the institution, courses can range from life drawing or game design, to fashion, photography, and portfolio development.

The benefits are tremendous. Here’s your chance to learn from working artists while you gain new skills, find a new passion, and gain a clearer understanding of college-level work.  Grow as an artist while you work on your portfolio and live among like-minded artisans.

I’ve listed a few programs to jump-start your research. While doing your own exploration I hope you’ll keep these key points in mind:

  • On-campus living opportunities vary from program to program.
  • Some summer programs offer college credit.
  • Many programs have a minimum age requirement of 16.
  • Application, financial aid, and scholarship deadlines vary by institution.

Time spent in an intensive summer program will prove to be a worthwhile experience as you plan for your transition to college. I hope you take the time to research some options close to home, and a little further away. Let me know what you find, and where you end up.

Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois

Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, Washington

Ringling College of Art & Design, Sarasota, Florida

University of Cincinnati, DAAP, Cincinnati, Ohio

University of Michigan, Stamps School of Art & Design, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Cooper-Union

Cooper-Union

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