The bachelor of arts degree in studio art (B.F.A.) is structured to provide wide-ranging exposure to various art media including painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, installation, digital media, computational media, sculpture, video, sound, film, and emerging forms and practices. Study of these various media and methods is offered in a tiered structure of thematic courses meant to guide students from immersion in material exploration to an independently researched and defined practice. Through direct contact with a diverse array of art forms, students gain the breadth of knowledge and experience needed to succeed in an increasingly pluralistic and multifaceted field of practice. Many courses are linked to related schools and colleges within the university at large, giving art students access to forms of creative innovation situated between art, media, and society and allowing for a highly individualized course of study. Developing artists gain insight not just into the protocols and rituals of art, but are immersed in a learning environment where all disciplines are subject to creative analysis, provocation, and reinvention.
The six-hour per week studio courses are at the center of a cluster of courses both within and outside the art department, taking advantage of our location within one of the world’s best research universities. Courses in art history, cultural and literary theory, visual studies, science, and humanities form a curriculum meant to support each student’s studio practice with a deep critical understanding of the full reach of creative practice, preparing them for careers as studio artists, art critics, curators, writers, creative directors, and arts administrators. By taking full advantage of the scholarship and faculty beyond the studio, the program forms a rigorous and focused trajectory that defines its graduates as those proficient in the skills of the past as well as capable of inventing the skills and forms of art yet to come. Alumni of the program are counted among the leading artists, curators, art directors, and critics currently in the field.
In addition to having access to the research and disciplines of other fields as a significant part of their developing art practice, studio art students have contact with leading artists and cultural innovators through the Visiting Artist Lecture Series, ongoing lectures at the neighboring Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and the department’s rotating visiting faculty, who complement the professional practice of tenured, full-time faculty with new and challenging visions of art and culture.
Students seeking a more formal multidisciplinary course of study may enroll as dual degree students and pair their B.F.A. in studio art with a bachelor’s degree from virtually any major offered by Cornell. Recent dual degree students have selected art history, biology, economics, engineering, history as their second discipline, giving them knowledge of a discipline complementary to contemporary art practice. Unique among peer art programs in the U.S., our five-year, dual degree B.F.A. is an opportunity for art students to balance their studio coursework with a fluency in a second disciplinary field, resulting in a professional pathway that bridges formerly distinct practices to position graduates as both innovators in traditional careers and pioneers in emerging professions. The program’s dual degree graduates become leaders in many new and developing areas and have gone on to diverse careers in fields such as computer visualization, creative consultancy, biotechnology, entertainment software and smart design fabrication.
Art Curriculum and Method
The B.F.A. curriculum is designed to prepare each student to think and create in a critically acute way that will form the foundation of an innovative creative practice that is uniquely expressed and culturally transformative. Studio classes comprise hands-on material or conceptual assignments as well as lectures by studio faculty. The four-year curriculum begins with the freshman seminar that anticipates the students’ creative and intellectual journey through the program by establishing a theoretical context and shared aesthetic discourse to frame future experience in intermediate and advanced level studios.
Sophomore- and junior-level courses build on material and media-specific learning with thematically defined studios that situate these distinct discourses within conceptually shared territories across media. Students in upper level studios — versed with media-specific vocabularies — are encouraged to define and challenge existing strategies for cultural engagement that defy these vocabularies. Departmental programs in New York City and Rome maximize this opening up of the imagination and offer courses at midpoint in the curriculum where contemporary urban and historical art forms can inform, expand, and ignite a maturing sensibility.
The culminating year of the program is defined by Thesis Studio I and II where students are given individual workspace and are challenged to create a personalized body of work through weekly critiques and reviews with a team-taught faculty committee. Thesis students, under the guidance of thesis faculty, prepare their work for an individual or group exhibition in one of the AAP’s three gallery spaces or initiate an event in public space as the capstone of their study. Having been immersed in a pathway of courses that begins with material knowledge, moves through conceptual, cultural/aesthetic strategies, and culminates in a student-produced body of work that synthesizes this learning through the lens of their own sensibility, successful B.F.A. graduates are articulate about their own work, the work of others, and the condition of art in a contemporary, global, and multi-cultural society.