Turning Your Passion into Your Profession

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Ringling College. Crossley Gallery.

When Ringling School of Art officially opened in 1931 (first as The School of Fine and Applied Art of the John and Mable Ringling Art Museum until 1933), there was no major in Game Art, no Computer Animation, no majors in Film, Photography or Entertainment Design. There were, however, a total of 50 courses offered in the category of “Art.”

Fast forward 90 years, the foundational art skills taught back then are still at the heart of the curricula at Ringling College of Art and Design. While we now offer 13 majors encompassing the ever-evolving world of art, design and technology, the fine arts continue to be at the core of what we do and how we teach.

From the earliest cave drawings to the magnificent art of the Renaissance, Impressionism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and other forms of contemporary art, the fine arts have served to challenge us, help us grow and inspire us along the way.

The Ringling College of Art and Design Fine Arts BFA program gives students an opportunity to learn the rigors of critical thinking along with the techniques of painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking, all while using the latest technology in enviable facilities. Ringling College’s outstanding program prepares students for success in the $67-billion international art industry. Students master both technical and conceptual skills, explore innovative modes of expression and develop an awareness of the historical and contemporary context of their work.

A number of spaces on campus support the Fine Arts program including Crossley Gallery. This is a beautiful, state-of-the-art gallery space exclusively administered by Fine Arts faculty in collaboration with students, allowing them an opportunity to develop gallery programming, curate professional exhibitions and participate as exhibiting artists.

A magnificent new opportunity to engage and inspire our student artists is the new Sarasota Art Museum (the adaptive reuse of the Historic Sarasota High School), home to thought-provoking exhibitions highlighting the ‘art of our time,’ along with educational programs. Studios North, a creative hub exclusive to the Fine Arts program, is housed in a 10,000-square-foot facility. Here, students have access to their own studio and project spaces allowing them room to experiment and create while having the support of an artistic, communal environment.

Reflecting the needs of those artists who are inspired by multiple mediums, a BA degree in Visual Studies at Ringling College is a relatively new major personally tailored to offer students maximum flexibility, allowing them to pick and choose a variety of courses alongside a rigorous liberal arts curriculum. Visual Studies students develop nimble thinking skills, while learning to communicate their ideas clearly and persuasively. Graduates go on to use their unique mix of media literacy and creative thinking to change how we see the world via multiple mediums, including drawing and painting, photography and film, stop motion, graphics and even immersive and interactive experiences.

At Ringling College, the trope of the “starving artist” has been replaced by scores of graduates who have gone on to work as critically acclaimed independent artists, industry executives, business owners and entrepreneurs while also serving as catalysts for cultural change in their communities and the world. These students’ passions are not limited to the canvases and sculptures they create. Their passions unleash the boundless creativity that leads to their work being displayed in museums, in commercial or nonprofit art galleries, international art fairs, in corporate and private collections, and even for TV, film and advertising. As these students leave Ringling College to begin their careers, they are equipped not only to be superlative artists, but with the entrepreneurial skills that will help them succeed in the professional world.

The fine arts encourage this next generation of artists to cherish intuition, uncertainty, and creativity and to constantly search for new ideas and ways to express those ideas in our ever-changing world. Or, as President John F. Kennedy said, “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow their vision - wherever it takes them.”

Dr. Larry Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art & Design.

Photo courtesy Ringling College. Crossley Gallery.

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