Many budding animators, graphic artists and illustrators nurture their passion for art and design early on. But when sketching favorite cartoon characters outlives its fun, a growing number of teens and parents seek an integrated summer art program that engages young minds with a variety of visual art techniques and tools. The University of Michigan’s Art & Design Summer Programs is one such program that stands out in a growing field. Offering an immersive visual arts experience for teens and pre-teens instructed by university faculty and graduate students, the summer sessions give students a unique opportunity to explore the visual arts prior to their collegiate pursuits.
Whether your teenager wants to discover more about the visual arts or is eager to beef up their portfolio in anticipation of university admissions, UM’s Art & Design Summer Programs incorporate three distinctive sessions to choose from that challenge and prepare young artists in the right environment for their needs. With summer just around the corner, the application process to the A&D Summer Programs is well underway with some deadlines as early as March 24, 2012. We spoke with the program’s Coordinator, Erika Hess, who answered our questions via email.
For additional details of the three A&D Summer Programs at The University of Michigan including tuition, dates and applications, visit their website.
ACR: Erika, thanks for taking the time to tell us more about the Art & Design Summer Program at The University of Michigan. Tell us a little about the genesis of the summer classes.
EH: The University of Michigan Art & Design Summer Programs started three years ago and was the brainchild of Joann McDaniel, the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies. She noticed there were summer programs for other concentrations but not for students considering a future in art and design. We have such a progressive program and amazing facilities it seemed a waste not to engage with talented and curious high school and middle school students.
ACR: Who teaches the courses and about how many students are in each class?
EH: University of Michigan Art & Design instructors do, as well as our graduate students. There is a maximum ratio of 20 (students) to 1 (instructor).
ACR: Among the 3 sessions to choose from is the BFA Prep program, 2 weeks in duration and available to high school freshman, sophomores and juniors. It offers arguably the most immersive visual arts exploration of the summer courses and includes on-campus housing for the duration. What can students expect to take away from the BFA Prep?
EH: BFA Prep is a unique program that reflects the unique nature of our BFA degree. Students are challenged to think critically and conceptually to solve problems in a visual manner. They work with non-traditional materials and are exposed to working in an interdisciplinary fashion to explore contemporary modes of art making. Students also learn from practicing artists in our visiting artist lectures and visit amazing site-specific work and museums on our day trip to Detroit.
ACR: There are several application requirements for the BFA Prep program including a portfolio and high school transcripts. What elements do you look for and assess when determining if an applicant is a good candidate for this intensive summer program?
EH: First and foremost, we are looking for curiosity- students who want to push boundaries and are excited to think about art in an interdisciplinary way. In a portfolio, I’m not always looking for the BEST work but rather work with the most individual personality.
ACR: The Portfolio Prep course for high school students is just one week in duration but it also offers a rigorous daily schedule of visual arts immersion. Who is this course geared towards?
EH: Portfolio Prep is an intense program for students who are looking to improve drawings and painting skills with the majority of the time spent working from observation. Unlike BFA Prep, the materials used (in Portfolio Prep) are traditional. Drawing from observation is a staple in understanding the space around us. Most art and design colleges require it for their portfolio so this program gives students access to those tools.
ACR: Middle-school students have the unique opportunity to enroll in the aptly-dubbed In the Middle program, a 1-week long camp that will explore 2D art this summer (and 3D art in odd numbered years). What elements do kids love the most about this art exploration camp?
EH: Students love being at a college working in professional studios! It gives them the chance to not only work with new materials, learn and explore but also be around other kids who share their interests.
ACR: Should they have considerable artistic skills prior to enrolling?
EH: Students do not need to have strong drawing skills but rather they should enjoy making things and be interested in learning more.
ACR: Are there elements of the programs that are perennial ‘fan-favorites’ with students?
EH: Students love going to Detroit to experience the art found there. We visit the Detroit Institute of Art and The Heidelberg Project and students walk away saying, “I didn’t know so many things can be used for art!” or “Design is EVERYWHERE!”
ACR: Given how competitive admissions are to UM’s School of Art & Design, does completion of your summer programs (or similar programs) help undergraduate applicants in any way?
EH: I definitely think any summer program a student partakes in will improve their portfolio and therefore their chances of getting accepted into a great art & design program.
ACR: Are there scholarship opportunities for the summer programs?
EH: As soon as students apply, they are reviewed for scholarship opportunities.
ACR: Lastly Erika, in your role as the Summer Program’s Coordinator, what do you love the most about your work and the program itself?
EH: Seeing kids discover what art and design can be and the enthusiasm that comes with the realization of a new idea.
ACR: Thank you for filling us in on these exciting summer programs for teens at the University of Michigan!
Check out more interviews at Animation Career Review's Interview Series.