December 2018
art studio

As students continue to think critically about the value of particular majors, art and design degrees stand out for how they combine soft skills with technical know-how.

“I tell students that they need to leave here being able to articulate their ideas visually and verbally — they need to be able to do math and have learned history,” said Karen Wirth, interim president at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. “They aren’t just learning their particular discipline, they are getting a well-rounded college education.”

All Minnesota Private Colleges offer majors in either studio art or art history; others have more specific art and design options available, such as the apparel design major at St. Catherine University or the book arts minor at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. As the only arts-focused institution in the group, MCAD offers fourteen related majors, including animation, graphic design and the region’s only entrepreneurial studies major offered at an art and design college.

At MCAD, art and design majors are paired with course work in the liberal arts and foundational courses to ensure students receive a broad education.

“There are things that have been adapted by the liberal arts and the business world that art and design education does especially well. A big one is experiential learning — it’s not theory, they are doing every day exactly what they will be doing in their professional lives,” Wirth said. “Another is critique — students must open their work to critical comments and support and defend it. These things are transferable skills to the professional work they’ll be doing.”

Along with skills employers’ value, art and design students also bring creativity and beauty to their work and the world, said Andrew Overn, art professor at Bethany Lutheran College.

“The skills art students learn are important to employers,” Overn said. “But I’d argue that their programs of study are every bit as important because they foster an appreciation for art and beauty that helps keep human culture alive.”

Whether or not art and design students are working in the field they studied, art students often continue to create art. These artists sometimes sell their work but other times their art stays a hobby and benefits the people around them.

“Sometimes the public doesn’t understand or appreciate the creative process,” Overn said. “But they sure like the product — that video game, or movie, or novel or new logo is a product of the creative process. These make our world better and often come from art students.”

“It’s important for art students to learn how to monetize their personal and technical skills,” Overn said. “But these same skills are what can also bring a lifetime of reward beyond the workplace.”

By Tom Lancaster