The Business of Art & Design

Embody Chair by Herman Miller

Embody Chair by Herman Miller

I have a pet peeve.

When I was in college I was interested in both the arts and business.  Given the opportunity to study one or the other I decided to opt for the arts, and so earned a degree in textile design.  It was the right choice for me at the time. I love textiles and all they represent; their history, their tactileness, the processes used to create them, and their cultural implications. However, as much as I love textiles, I also love marketing, and in hindsight I wish that I had included more business courses in the mix. Even though I attended a large liberal arts university, (Go Dawgs!) combining courses – let alone degrees – from such diverse fields mostly wasn’t done then.

art and business need each otherStudents today have more opportunities to mix things up a bit – and I think they should. Through my years of work experience one of the important things I’ve learned is that art and business need each other. Artists need business to promote, sell and financially succeed at their craft.  Businesses need art to graphically depict their messages; to tell their stories.

How does this affect you? Well, if you’re looking to create a career that is directly related to your artistic passions then business or professional courses will help you build that successful path.  I recommend that you take a serious look at the business and professional options available to you as you consider which college to attend.  If for no other reason, do it so you can tell mom and dad you’re planning not to become a starving artist.  (wink, wink)

Let’s consider some details.  Obtaining a degree in a fine art is different than getting one in an applied art.  What does that even mean? Applied arts are mostly those with a direct connection to a specific function.  Think fashion design and advertising.  Stereotypically speaking, fine art is mainly created for its pure beauty.  Think painting and illustration. Does that mean if you study an applied art you’ll have an easier time finding a job and building a career?  Probably yes.  Whichever path you choose, business and professional courses should boost your understanding of how art and business affect, and even rely on each other, which in the long run could help you land a coveted job.

It’s been years since I studied my craft in college, and I have to say I’m still frustrated with the limited number of business courses available for art students wanting to augment their studies.  So, how do you research what business and professional courses are available at varying colleges and universities?  Unfortunately there is no one answer to that question.  But I’ve done some research into the subject, and will share what I’ve learned next week.

The Embody Chair is copyrighted by the Herman Miller Company.

Hot News From A Cool Corner Of The Country

Glass Blowing

Glass Blowing

Glass studies can be found at a number of institutions across the country, but the one that seems most natural to me is at the University of Washington (UW).  Why?  Well, it’s my alma mater (go dawgs!).  But more importantly Seattle and its environs are glass blowing country.  Think Dale Chihuly and Pilchuk, which he co-founded.  So when I read this morning that the UW School of Art has received a gift of two glassblowing furnaces to further its program I was thrilled.  Glass is part of the art school’s 3D4M (Three Dimensional Forum) program, offering students the opportunity to earn a BFA by studying sculptural form through ceramics, glass, wood and metal.   The relationship gives undergraduates the ability to develop a broad understanding of three-dimensional concepts through a variety of media.

The program received a kick-start when Mark Zirpel (Dale Chihuly Endowed Chair) joined the faculty in 2008.  Under his direction the school has created studios for three of the four major components to a world-class program; warm glass, cold glass and lamp glass.  With the donation of two hot furnaces by local producer, glassybaby, students will be able to learn how to blow hot glass while receiving a comprehensive glass education.

Future career opportunities are greater than one might originally think.  The UW Career Center provides a wealth of services for all students and alumni.  Career paths for art school graduates include artist, art education, curator, and museum management to name a few.  If industry is your interest, check out Glass Magazine.  A search through their 2012 product and project award winners will give you an idea of how the artistic appeal of glass is incorporated into the corporate world.  And the magazine’s new online employment center connects job seekers with those in the industry.

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.