Applied Visual Arts Flying New Colors

Applied Visual Arts

Elk – digital painting by Kristin Olson

Revisits the future with new name: Visual Art & Design

The Applied Visual Arts program at Dakota County Technical College is painting on a new, future-forward canvas. Imagined in a new light that synthesizes the modern with the classic, the A.A.S. degree program is now called Visual Art & Design.

Instructor Gwen Partin is excited about the fresh direction of her longstanding program. She took a second out of her crazy schedule to answer a few questions for current and prospective students.

Salvador Dali biographical illustration created in watercolor and colored pencil by Chris Svihel, 2nd year student in Applied Visual Arts programWhat prompted the change?

The curriculum needed to be updated to better correspond with industry standards. After doing research and listening to advisory committee recommendations, we decided to not only change our curriculum, but also update the name. People didn’t know what Applied Visual Arts meant because it’s already an applied degree. Design is really a half-and-half program. You can’t have a person doing artwork for commercial use without having a design background. The entire foundation is in the design classes.

What will be different?

The biggest change to the new program will be a reduction in the number of credits. The old program had eight electives, while the new program is designed to have more courses with no electives. Some courses are the same, but with new names, while other courses are completely different. The new courses are founded on smarter ways to leverage artistic talent. Fewer courses are the same because we wanted to distinguish Visual Art & Design by making it more relevant and more career-focused.

Portrait created in watercolor by Tara McDonaldStudents will now be working with picture books, comic strips and storyboards. The Advertising and Editorial Illustration class will be specific to a place an artist might get work, such as in publishing or advertising companies. The classes will be more attractive and have a broader appeal by more closely resembling an art program.

Visual Art & Design provides deep-end technical skills because the students have to know these things to get work. What really seals the deal is also having a strong art background. The changes will make DCTC unique. Even at the four-year level, no local colleges are offering this kind of program.

What’s the outcome of the new program?

The outcome is a higher level of skill because the classes are broken down and more specific to techniques. For example, the new program will include Drawing I and Drawing II classes instead of a Basic Drawing class. Students will get further with drawing and illustration, and will receive a variety of skills such as painting and drawing as well as computer illustration. The Story Theme class brings in animation, which we didn’t offer before.

The Visual Art & Design program will help build student portfolios for more possibilities. The program prepares students for furthering their education, getting more experience, or landing a job. If they have the passion, dedication and talent, Visual Art & Design will take my students wherever they want to go.

Many of the updates have been made to use media as opposed to traditional art mediums. We are working on acquiring graphics tablets so students get experience with a stylus. Things are really changing. Even people doing thumbnail or design mock-ups are doing it on the computer instead of paper. This is a good skill to have, but not hard to pick up if you’re already working in the software.

Poem illustration created in Adobe Illustrator by Jessica Hutton, student in Continuing Education programWhat’s the bottom line?

Students who really enjoy art stand a better chance of finding careers in the art world if they expand their educational horizons and learn exactly where the jobs are. The Visual Art & Design program is focused on opening the eyes of my students to real-world places they can work and make money. Some students think they will just draw pictures and sell them, but that’s not how it works. This program will give them a crystal-clear window into the industry. They’ll learn the business side of art and understand how to make a living doing it. Most employers are looking for someone who is multifaceted, such as a graphic designer who also has an art and illustration background.

Visual Art & Design prepares students to work up portfolio pieces that will concentrate their job search. Maybe they want to do film animation or storyboard sketching. Maybe they want to work for the publishing industry and do book covers or editorial work. Perhaps they want to do portraits and sell them as a side business. Whatever it is, Visual Art & Design has options for all types of artists.

For more information about the Visual Art & Design program, contact:
  • Gwen Partin
    Visual Art & Design Instructor
    651-423-8369