Undergraduate Art Program

The B.F.A. program at Cornell's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) is an exclusively fine arts–focused program with the goal of producing artists who are informed by the condition of the world, and who will graduate with the experience and rigor necessary to sustain their artistic practices into the future.

The Department of Art aims to produce artists — indeed citizens — who have critically synthesized a wide range of knowledge and who will contribute toward altering the way the world sees itself. The department's approach does not necessarily subscribe to an instrumental application of culture to society, but believes in the importance of the artist's perspective in initiating broad changes in both understanding and daily life.

As today's technological media continuously extend their reach and alter relations to material surroundings, Cornell AAP's B.F.A. program asks that the artist comprehend the larger structural forces governing these technologies and produce critical objects that reveal their heretofore unarticulated assumptions.

The B.F.A. curriculum stresses five educational goals:

  1. Artistic training: a developing relationship to craft, which is defined as the choice and knowledgeable use of the appropriate materials for the desired conceptual ends
  2. Contextual preparedness: a theoretical and historical understanding of art and the larger world in which it functions
  3. Critical thinking and expression: the essential habit of questioning everything, i.e., all assumptions within and surrounding one's practice
  4. Practical understanding of the contemporary art world: its global landscape, institutions, and modes of artistic viability and presentation
  5. Sustainable practice: the development of an autonomous or collaborative practice built on continued inquiry, research, experimentation, and making

The two academic components of the B.F.A. education consist of the art-specific requirements and the general liberal studies education, which includes a broad list of university electives. The art component is structured to provide wide-ranging exposure to various art media including digital media, drawing, installation, painting, photography, print media, sculpture, sound, video, and emerging forms and practices.

During the first two semesters, all students follow a common course of study designed to provide a broad introduction to the arts as a basis for the intensive studio experience that will comprise the remainder of the curriculum. Throughout the program, students are encouraged to work across disciplines, focusing on an intellectually rigorous independent practice. In the second and third years, students may apply for semester programs in both New York City and Rome to gain added exposure to professional and global art worlds. The final three semesters are focused on the strengthening of self-directed practice culminating in a thesis exhibition.

While four years may seem short relative to a lifetime of artistic pursuit, the Cornell B.F.A. program offers sufficient time and space for the artist to learn the critical skills necessary to build a powerful practice of thinking and making that will contribute to the collective future.