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How to Prepare for Art School

Making the Most of a Private School Education in Art


How to Prepare for Art School

Interlochen Arts Academy

Photo © Interlochen Arts Academy

While many college-prep private schools are known for educating students who go on to major in left-brained activities such as English and economics, it's important to remember that they can also be training centers for young artists. While there are private schools dedicated to the arts, students at more mainstream schools can also get a good foundation in the arts and prepare for a college major in art or music or to study at art or music school. Here's how students at private schools can best take advantage of the programs at their schools:

Take Advantage of What Your School Offers

While schools such as Waldorf schools regard art and music as central to their educational mission, even more traditional private schools have visual arts and music offerings and electives, particularly in the upper grades. For example, Choate, a boarding school in Connecticut, boasts the famous Paul Mellon Arts Center, designed by I.M. Pei. The center has an 800-seat auditorium and orchestra pit, as well as a visual arts center. In the arts program, students can use computer-based or traditional approaches to art, and they can also take classes in digital photography, black-and-white photography, and video. The school offers AP or Advanced Placement Art History, as do many private schools. At Philips Exeter Academy, students can study architecture, ceramics, photography, painting, sculpture, and computer-related skills at the Frederick R. Mayer Art Center. Most private schools have studio art and other related classes, in addition to AP Art History.

Make Connections Between Art and Other Subjects

Art classes aren't the only places to study art. As many experts will tell you, private school are becoming more interdisciplinary in nature, meaning that teachers and courses are looking for connections among fields that used to be separate. For example, there are many ways to connect history and art, as well as science and art. If possible, students can ask their teachers about writing research reports and carrying out independent connections between art and other subjects. In this way, students who are particularly interested in art and the arts can bring their interests into other subjects, thereby educating themselves and enriching their classmates. For example, students in U.S. History classes can study the art related to that period and what its content has to do with the time period under study. Skills in written and spoken expression are also transferable to studies and careers in art, as students need to express their ideas not only in their medium of choice but also in writing and speech. Art schools are looking for students who can clearly express their ideas and their interest in art, and classes in English and other fields help students develop these relevant skills.

Develop a Portfolio

Students who are interested in attending art school or majoring in art in college can use their high school years to start compiling a art portfolio. To compile the necessary pieces, students should seek the advice of their art teachers and/or college guidance counselors. Different types of art schools require different types of pieces, but most of them want to see evidence that students have developed technical as well as creative skills. For example, art students need to master techniques involved in illustration, and graphic designers need to learn computer programs. The pieces students develop and select for their portfolios should reflect a sense of innovation and the ability to work in different media. Working with their art teachers, students can hone their skills to prepare their portfolios and their artistic abilities. Most of all, art schools want to see that students are enthusiastic about their work, and students have the resources in private schools to work with their teachers, develop their skills, visit museums, and prepare for a future career in art.

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