What’s On Campus Now

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University

There is nothing quite like the feel of walking across a college campus, especially in fall. The quintessential image of backpack-laden students strolling along paths between manicured green spaces, with leaves crunching underfoot. It has to be experienced to be believed.

Only by visiting campus can your teen obtain that first-hand understanding of the culture or “feel” of a college. Each one has its own unique vibe comprised of its students, the courses, the professors, the quad, the local town, and even the weather.

College information sessions and tours provide a wealth of information. But keep in mind that they only show off what they want you to see. To know which colleges could be “best fit” opportunities, get off the beaten path. Make time to explore the studio space, talk to some unassuming students, and take in a local exhibit or lecture. All will provide you with a better understanding of campus resources, how available and friendly students and faculty are, and what opportunities exist during and after college.

Every campus has great events and lectures taking place throughout the year. Here’s a sampling of some that caught my eye. Let me know what others you find.

Cranbrook Academy of Art
University of Michigan, Stamps School of Art & Design
University of Florida, College of the Arts
Pratt
UCLA
RISD

An Artistic Success Story

I’m often fascinated by life’s journeys. The twists, turns, and road bumps that direct and redirect us often lead us exactly where we need to go. I’m especially drawn to the journeys of artists. Unfortunately, many people today still question whether artists have viable paths to career success.

The SmitheryAnne Holman and Jen Townsend are two artistic success stories merged into one. Their individual winding paths are full of life’s hiccups and misdirection, but those paths led them to CCAD and each other. The serendipity of it all has built a friendship, a business partnership, and The Smithery a unique and welcoming retail store, artist’s studio, and workshop in Columbus, Ohio. Clearly, they’ve landed in the right place at the right time.

I was fortunate to meet Anne and Jen earlier this summer, and learn their story of how they got to here and now. Each had a passion for making art growing up. And they each pursued a creative college education, but neither in the medium of metalsmithing that they’ve come to love. Anne combined studies of printmaking and sculpture into her own jewelry major before CCAD had one. Jen’s path included transferring from a regional state university where she wasn’t being artistically challenged.

The two met when Anne was a guest lecturer in Jen’s Studio Professions course. Anne’s suggestions for the different ways artists could make a living after college – including working in industry or selling at art and craft fairs – were spoken from personal experience. And they struck a chord with Jen.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Their paths crisscrossed a number of times again before they recognized a similar work ethic and began sharing studio space and a passion for creating a place where they could sell art, make art, and teach making. “We wanted it all in one space,” Jen explained. “To make stuff, teach, have our studio, sell, and support other people making things – all in one building.”

Timing is everything in life, and when Anne was trying to sell her handmade jewelry at an East Coast trade show in January of 2014 she turned her downtime into recruitment time, researching and networking with other artisans who could someday sell their handmade art at her dream store. With little personal business experience, the two found an out-of-town entrepreneurial business course for creatives, requiring weekly late night drives to Cincinnati. They wrote a savvy business plan and secured funding, then obtained a prime location for their creative endeavor, beating out other companies with solid reputations in competing for the same storefront.

The Smithery opened in October of 2014. “The idea all along was to open a place where we could showcase our own work and that of other artists,” Anne affirmed. And that’s just what they’ve done. Thanks to the relationships they’d built over time the store is filled with curated artwork representing artists at all different stages of their creative careers. The majority is jewelry, but it also includes textiles, ceramics, and hand-made prints. “A lot of these artists don’t sell in Ohio, many don’t sell in the Midwest, and some international artists don’t sell in the United States at all,” added Jen.

make artAnne explained that the part of making she enjoys most is having her “hands in the material.” Unfortunately, running a new business allows less time for that, although she and Jen do make time to design custom jewelry. Workshops seem to be the most fun because that’s when they can teach their craft to other burgeoning artists and get the next generation of designers excited about making.

Which brings things full circle. Art school taught them “the practicality of being in the studio every day and just making, making, making constantly; and realizing how much time goes into figuring things out,” explained Jen with excitement in her voice. That is where it came together for these two artists. I wonder where their paths will lead them next.

More information about The Smithery can be found on their website.

Art College Search Tips: Back to Basics

Glassblowing: University of Washington

Glassblowing: University of Washington

Starting the college search process for the aspiring artist in your family takes a leap of faith. There are so many details to consider that it’s often confusing to know when, where, and how to begin your teen’s search.

Let’s keep it simple. At the beginning, your main purpose is to expose your teen to a variety of choices. Open her eyes and let her see, feel, and imagine herself in different scenarios. Then, as decisions are made she’ll be able to narrow the field to what fits her – and your – needs and wants.

Begin your search by focusing on a limited number of factors. I’ve chosen three to get you going. They’ll provide focus when researching from home and when touring campuses. And the answers your teen and family come up with will guide and influence other decisions down the road. There is no sequence to these three. I recommend exploring them together to see what you come up with.

Ceramics: California College of the Arts

Ceramics: California College of the Arts

Major Decisions
Is illustration your daughter’s passion? Can she draw non-stop from her imagination? Perhaps she’d like to apply her talents to the world of animation. Most art campuses have cinematic majors these days, but many liberal arts colleges and universities may not. Translation: pay attention, because not all colleges offer every major. However, make sure you keep in mind this staggering statistic: according to the National Center for Education Statistics about 80% of students in the US end up changing their major at least once.

BA or BFA?   We know that different institutions offer different majors. They also provide different degree programs. The general rule of thumb is that 60% of study and class time will be spent on arts programming on the way to a Bachelor of Fine Arts. The other 40% will be spent on support courses and general studies. The reverse is true for a Bachelor of Arts. Those seeking a Bachelor of Design typically follow a ratio similar to a BFA.

Big Fish In A Little Pond    Is an art and design school what your teen is looking for, or would she prefer to integrate her studies within a broader liberal arts education? The former will have her learning and living with artists 24/7. That’s invigorating but may also feel limiting. At the latter, she’ll get to mix it up with STEM, English, philosophy majors and more. That can speak to artistic inspiration, cross-pollination, and a soft place to land if she decides art isn’t her field after all.

Just remember, there is no “right” answer to any of these questions.  There is only what’s right for your teen and your family. And, once your high schooler begins to discover her preferences other questions will develop, but she’ll be on her way to finding her best college fit.

Learn more about the college search for artists & designers on facebook and twitter.

Artists #Making It Work: Liz Robb

Liz Robb

Liz Robb

It’s often said that artists cannot make a living from their artwork alone. Parents of aspiring fine artists stress about it in their souls.

Liz Robb is a young fiber artist who is beginning to prove that worry to be unnecessary, especially for her parents. I interviewed Liz in the fall of 2014 soon after she completed her MFA and moved to San Francisco. At the time she was just beginning; figuring out how to make it as a successful fiber artist. A short 18 months later she’s building quite a name for herself.

Since we’ve last connected, Liz has exhibited at numerous shows throughout the west as well as at the International Textile Art Biennial in Belgium. She completed a two-month artistic residency at the Icelandic Textile Center in Blönduós, Iceland, has received numerous awards, and has had her art published in several design magazines.

Liz' Rope Curvature on display

Liz’ Rope Curvature on display

Lucky me, I ran into Liz this past weekend where she was showcasing her textural wonders at the StARTup Art Fair in San Francisco. The setting was unique. 40-some contemporary, independent artists displayed their work in individual hotel rooms of a 1950’s motor lodge turned boutique “California beach house” style hotel. No kidding!

At the show and on her website I found Liz’ most recent body of work to be focused and distinctive, with an obvious influence of her time in Iceland.

Whether you’re an aspiring artist or the parent of someone who dreams of being one, make sure to read my interview with Liz. Her words offer clear insight into the creative process and what artists feel as they develop their career paths.

Clearly, Liz’ days of Lyft and Uber driving to supplement her art career are receding in her rear-view mirror.

Looking to learn more about artistic career paths? Follow us on facebook and twitter.

A Passionate Future or a Practical One: Do Students Need to Differentiate?

Parents are frequently tested. It just comes with the territory.

Naturally, we want our college-bound teens to have fulfilling majors and careers. If their passion is in science, math, or engineering (STEM) then they – and we – are lucky. Those are the fields of the future we’re advised. That’s where the lucrative careers are and will be.

rightbrain-leftbrainBut what about our creative offspring, those wanting to study and build careers based in the visual arts? Can’t they also have fulfilling and lucrative careers? Should we advise them to follow their passions, or towards what’s deemed a more practical future?

The answers don’t come easily. Doubts and questions arise about the long-term consequences of following one’s artistic passion. Job opportunities seem fewer and the chance of making a living often seems questionable.

Young visual artists, designers, and their parents should know about a great opportunity that’s smack in the middle of the STEM world. It’s the junction where technology meets creative. An article in last month’s LATimes spells it out from the perspective of CalArt’s president Steven D. Lavine. “Arts educators and technology chief executive officers are acknowledging once again that the two fields not only work hand-in-hand but that technological advances are often nourished by arts-inspired creative methods and critical thinking,” the article reads. Bottom line: engineers, entrepreneurs, and those in the tech world need our creative kids.

I’ve waxed before about the need to merge right-brain and left-brain thinkers. Analytical and linear thinkers need creative designers who process information holistically, and vice versa. There is great value in combining these diverse perspectives. Visual artists naturally think outside the proverbial box. And, the skills they learn in college – beyond the artistic ones – of persistence, incorporating criticism into newfound solutions, and teambuilding are beneficial to solving the technical problems of today and tomorrow.

CalArts has promoted this cross-pollination for decades. Other colleges are recognizing the value as well. When searching for college options for your teen, make sure to inquire about each one’s approach to the collaboration of these two fields. You’ll find more opportunities for your teen’s future, and more peace of mind for yourself.

 

Want more art.college.life.? See what we’re posting on facebook, twitter, and pinterest.