The Foundations courses integrate technical media-based investigation and theoretical artistic research to guide you in developing your individual voice. This foundation in media and critical exploration prepares you for your immersive junior and senior years working in self-directed advanced studio electives.
BFA students will take the following art courses – in addition to academic electives and university requirements – during their first two years. BXA students will take an abridged version of the Foundations.
Transdisciplinary Research Studios
During your first two years, you will take three Transdisciplinary Research Studio (TRS) courses. These classes will challenge you to create and think critically as an artist, while exploring the wide range of approaches to making that constitute artistic research. You will play, experiment, and produce work from your unique perspective while becoming comfortable with unfamiliar experiences, ideas, and materials.
TRS I: Risk, Agency, Failure
In this first TRS class, you will create artwork that confronts complex ideas such as: What can art uniquely do in the world? How can you playfully work with subjects and materials that are foreign and unfamiliar? How do you define success as an artist? How do you embrace failure as a productive part of the artistic process? How do you become comfortable breaking and remaking rules in art?
2D Media Studio: Drawing
The quintessential first-year art course, this class will give you essential drawing skills that are needed for advanced work in almost any medium. Beginning with an initial emphasis on technical development, this class will have an increasing focus on developing your ideas and vision as the semester progresses.
3D Media Studio I in Sculpture, Installation, and Site-Work
This course will introduce you to the concepts, techniques, and toolsets for creating three-dimensional art using our woodshop, digital fabrication spaces, metal shop, and more. You will learn both digital and physical fabrication methods. Class experiments will prompt you to consider relationships between objects, bodies, spaces, and society, as well as between technology, craft, form, and language.
Critical Theory in Art I
The first semester of critical theory introduces you to key theories, philosophies, and historical and critical backgrounds for Western and non-Western art from the 1400s to the end of the 1800s.
2D Media Studio: Painting
Painting introduces technical, conceptual, and historical practices through acrylic media. You will progress from observational exercises and exposure to materials and techniques, to developing personal processes, imagery, and ideas.
3D Media Studio II
Expanding upon the skills you learned in your first semester sculpture course, this class will introduce you to more advanced techniques as well as additional sculptural materials.
Electronic Media Studio: Introduction to the Moving Image
This course introduces digital skills and tools for time-based media production. You will learn video and audio production through the exploration of animation, performance, documentary, and experimental processes.
Critical Theory in Art II
Devoted to the period from 1900 to 1960, this course covers major artworks and theories spanning from Cubism and the historical avant-garde to totalitarian art and 1950s artistic research worldwide, with an intentional focus on both Western and non-Western perspectives.
Studio Electives (Spring Semester)
In addition to the courses below, you begin taking advanced studio electives in your area of interest in the spring semester, choosing from:
- Drawing, Painting, Print Media & Photogra/phy
- Sculpture, Installation & Site Work
- Electronic & Time-Based Media
- Contextual Practice
TRS II: Publics
In this class, you will learn how context and audience shape art. You will create work that explores power dynamics, subjectivity, institutional frameworks, accessibility, and more. You will be asked to consider what artists’ roles and responsibilities can be—culturally, politically, and socially. Through the production of art engaging with a variety of publics, real and virtual, you will investigate how to become an active change agent in the world through making.
2D Media Studio
Building on your foundation in drawing and painting, you will branch out into other mediums and continue exploring the conceptual possibilities of working in two-dimensional formats.
Electronic Media Studio: Introduction to Interactivity
This course introduces you to programming and computational media production skills to create interactive artwork and engage new technologies critically. You will be introduced to: algorithms, bots, virtual reality, 3D engines, face tracking and recognition, neural networks, and more.
Critical Theory in Art III
This class covers the tumultuous period of contemporary art and culture from the 1960s to the mid-1980s and examines artistic ideas around commodification, phenomenology, materialism, conceptualism, semiotics, abjection, and technology, as well as the impact of social movements and American foreign policies.
TRS III: Futures
Amidst the many intractable challenges of the present, artists have the power to imagine new futures. This class will demonstrate how you can use your art practice to explore critical and imaginative world-making and utopian, dystopian, and ambiguous scenarios from a variety of perspectives through the act of making.
Critical Theory in Art IV
Covering the mid-1980s to the present, this course will examine challenges to Western rationalism, whiteness, patriarchy, and hetero- and cis-normativity against the backdrop of the “Culture Wars” in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the rise of the internet, social media, and new technologies.
Beginning your sophomore year, the curriculum expands from Foundational courses to a wide range of self-driven advanced studios and academic electives, and you will choose classes that most interest you and inform your art-making. Your sophomore review in the spring semester will give you an opportunity to reflect on everything you have learned and made during your Foundation, and to plan for the rest of your college career and beyond.
This is the time to think about the big picture: Who are you as a person and as an artist? How do all of your interests fit together? What do you hope to achieve during your time at CMU? What are your goals after college and how do you build a viable practice as a working artist?
You will meet with a team of three faculty members, present work from your Foundation courses, and discuss how your interests and strengths can be refined in your junior and senior years to develop a robust, individualized artistic practice. Faculty will advise you on School of Art concentrations, internships, minors, study abroad programs, other artists and scholars to review, and further opportunities for your personal and professional development as an artist. Using your conversations with faculty and written feedback following your review, you will develop a clear roadmap for the rest of your time at CMU and for starting your career.
JUNIOR & SENIOR YEARS
Your junior and senior years will be focused on self-driven making through studio electives and building a personal art practice supported by access to your individual 24-hour studio. During your senior year, you will take a year-long course that helps you integrate everything you have learned at CMU to create a final project for professional exhibition at the Miller Institute for Contemporary Art.