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Blog Feature

By: Scott Cline on May 4th, 2017

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3 art college communities that attract creative, inquisitive thinkers like you

For Undergraduates

An art college education isn’t gained purely from textbooks and lectures. Nor is a unique artistic vision developed by isolating yourself in the studio.

Being an artist means participating in an ongoing process of sharing, comparing, and learning from other artists — those that share your perspective as well as those that don’t. It means being open to critique and allowing yourself to be challenged — and challenging others to test the limits of their creativity.

There are many good reasons to attend an art college. But for aspiring artists, one of the main attractions of art college is the community.

Steven Guarnaccia, a professor at Parsons The New School for Design, says this about the value of an art college community:

“To be in a close setting with fellow students going through the same rigorous training and the same activity of challenging one’s perceptions and preconceptions is an invaluable experience that I don’t think can really be replicated in any other way.”

Add to the students the experienced professors,  engaged alumni, and industry partners, and you’ll start to see the true breadth of the community that will be supporting, pushing, and encouraging you at an art college.

Here are three American art colleges with exceptional communities of fellow students, instructors, and alumni. For each, there is also a description of the greater artistic community surrounding the school, because, the location of an art college is just as important as the quality of its classes.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL.

Undergraduate population: 2,843

What they say about their community: “The students, faculty, and staff of SAIC are engaged and innovative creators of art, design, scholarship, and writing. The faculty drives our curriculum, and each member brings the diverse experiences of his or her practice directly into the classroom and studio. Our students are viewed as emerging peers and full participants in the learning that occurs in collaboration with faculty and each other.”

What they say about their city: “Our symbiotic relationship with the city radiates outward as students, faculty, and staff connect themselves to the diverse communities of Chicago and the entire world...The city's richness, complexity, and contradictions are the perfect environment for our own diverse community.”

Representative student review (from “If you want to be surrounded by passionate students and teachers and study/create in a welcoming environment, this is the school for you!” 

Rhode Island School of Design


Location: Providence, RI.

Undergraduate population: 2,014

What they say about their community: “Students at RISD quickly discover that ‘the studio’ isn’t only where art is made, it’s also where community is created. By talking openly about process, collaborating on projects, and exchanging techniques and ideas, you and your peers will grow together as thinkers and makers.”

What they say about their city: “Aptly deemed The Creative Capital, Providence has earned a reputation for being an arts and cultural mecca. With the largest number of working artists in the country, the city boasts a vibrant mix of galleries, theaters, and museums.”

Representative student review (from “It is amazing to be surrounded by so many talented and creative people who also are very driven and pursue what they are interested in.”

California College of the Arts

Location: San Francisco, CA.

Undergraduate population: 1,512

What they say about their community: “California College of the Arts is a community of artists who believe creative work can positively and powerfully affect society; in short, we make art that matters...At CCA we share openly. We work tirelessly. We are artists, entrepreneurs, designers, makers, and thinkers — bold and innovative through and through.”

What they say about their city: “The San Francisco Bay Area is defined by entrepreneurship, sustainability, and social activism as well as design and technology. Innovation and creativity permeate all aspects of daily life.”

Representative student review (from “The school has opened up doors for me to think differently and creatively. I am surrounded by students from around the world that all bring something to the table, and I am grateful that I get a chance to learn more about other cultures, too.”

Describe Your Ideal Art College Community

What kind of community are you looking for at an art college? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

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About Scott Cline

Dr. Scott Cline is vice president of enrollment at California College of the Arts, where he leads the financial aid and undergraduate admissions offices. He has worked at CCA for over six years, previously as director and associate director of financial aid.


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