Art department revamps three programs

PITTSBURGH – Carlow University’s Art Department took a hard look at its bachelor of arts in Art major in 2019 when the sudden closure of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh left a gaping hole in the region’s education options. Art history, graphic design and media arts/animation are three recently revamped concentrations that prepare students with job-ready skills in undergraduate art programs.

For students interested in work at cultural centers, the revamped art history concentration attracts students who wish to learn about the collection and management of art at museums, galleries and other arts organizations.

Amy Bowman-McElhone, assistant professor and director of the Carlow University Art Gallery, led the update to the art history concentration. She sees growing interest and “energy” around curatorial practices and experiential learning.

Bowman-McElhone modeled the concentration after museum studies. Careers in museum studies involve roles in curating and exhibiting, art conservation and preservation, and arts administration. Pittsburgh is home to numerous art centers: The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Andy Warhol Museum, The Mattress Factory, and The Frick Pittsburgh.

The refreshed graphic design concentration teaches the fundamental principles of design and examines examples of graphic design from past to present. Students learn how to research, design, produce and refine graphic art that makes an impact, while also becoming adept with professional-level computer programs, such as Adobe Creative Suite software. Graduates may find jobs in the fields of publishing, advertising, and marketing and communications.

Graphic design students build teamwork skills by collaborating with programs within the Art Department and have opportunities to engage with on-campus and off-campus clients on various projects to create work samples.

Senior Hannah Purbaugh plans to seek an entry-level job in graphic design.

“I do think that the art program has prepared me for the direction I want to go after graduation, as much as they could. There are a few aspects that I believe that you can only be truly taught while on the job,” Purbaugh said.

Purbaugh said she has learned “new perspectives and techniques” from Carlow professors and felt her courses “were very valuable and gave me new perspectives on art and how many paths it can take in life.”

Senior Deaven Spruiel sought to finish a degree at Carlow after the Art Institute closed.

“Granted there is always more that you can learn, especially within a graphic design career, I feel like this program has help prepared me to sell myself as a graphic designer, develop a professional image, problem solve, and give me a understanding of what is waiting for me after graduation,” Spruiel said.

Kimberly McMahon, an instructor and assistant program manager, led the updates for the two fast-evolving concentrations of graphic design and media arts/animation.

“As graphic design continues to develop and change, students will be prepared to change and encouraged to remain current, before and after graduation,” McMahon said.

For those students with an interest in being content creators on the digital landscape, the media arts/animation concentration has a focus on storytelling and teaches the skills to plan, develop and deliver digital art, computer animation, and video games. Computer software taught in the program includes Adobe Creative Suite, Toon Boom, zBrush, Substance Painter, AutoDesk Maya and 3D Max.

“From concept to storyboard to final rendered animation, students will have the opportunity to create with a variety of industry standard software and technology,” McMahon said.

Junior James Balsimo enjoys the program’s “freedom of creativity” and felt he received a firm foundation in art before moving on to complex assignments.

“The art program is definitely helping me prepare for my future pursuits. In the media arts and animation concentration, there are countless different software packages and techniques. Carlow has done a good job of teaching several of these programs in an efficient and engaging way to those unfamiliar with them that makes students excited to explore the intricacies of animation and media art as a whole,” Balsimo said.

Art students will benefit from the career preparation offered through the newly revamped art history, graphic design and media arts/animation concentrations.

“Students in Carlow’s art program are excited to learn, willing to experiment, and always discovering new ways to go beyond,” Balsimo said.

Carlow University is continually refreshing curricular offerings to equip students with career-ready skills and transformational experiences for today’s job market. The Art Department is no exception. As Pittsburgh-born artist Andy Warhol once said, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

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