“You go into art because you are passionate about it, you can’t see yourself doing anything else and you’re willing to take chances to make it work,” RIC Professor of Art and award-winning artist Stephen Fisher tells students considering a degree in the arts.
After teaching printmaking and drawing courses at RIC for 25 years, Fisher refers to himself as the “veritable Yoda” of the college’s art department, which recently expanded into the state-of-the-art Alex and Ani Hall.
“Essentially, I am the department specialist in 17th- and 18th-century technologies,” he said, referring to the art school’s print presses, which operate “the same way they did for Rembrandt.”
At RIC, the traditional arts of printmaking, painting, pottery, darkroom photography, sculpture and jewelry/metalsmithing are offered alongside high-tech disciplines, such as digital media and graphic design.
Fisher said RIC offers first-year students the “basic language and grammar of the visual arts” before they move on to “learn how to write the novel” in later years.
As for where RIC students land after graduating with an art degree, Fisher said they often “go on to push their own art, work in a variety of design fields, become K-12 art teachers or even get their M.F.A.s and become faculty members” at colleges and universities.
A degree in music from RIC, another Exploring Arts option, requires a spring audition and acceptance into the program. However, to fulfill general education requirements, students pursuing any of the Exploring Arts degrees may choose among four introductory music courses.
Robert Franzblau, RIC professor of music and director of bands, said these general education courses, which encourage appreciation of music through studying history, theory and notation, are geared toward “conceptual learning over musical learning.”
Franzblau said that an education in the arts also teaches students how to get along with others. Students in the music department learn to “put differences aside and put art first,” he said.
RIC’s film studies program – another possible degree in the Exploring Arts option – was established in 1976, making it the oldest undergraduate film studies major at a public college or university in the Northeast.
Introduction to Film is one of the courses Exploring Arts students may choose to fulfill their general education requirement in the visual and performing arts.
According to Vincent Bohlinger, the program’s director, students in the Digital Age often come to RIC with an “inkling of their interest” in film already sparked. Exploring Arts gives these students “the opportunity to study and pursue their degrees in a field for which they already feel passionate,” he said.
Bohlinger believes the greater meaning of a college degree, whether in film studies, philosophy, English or any other discipline, is to understand the world in a deeper and more profound way.
This is how students merge their passions with knowledge to find ways to help improve the world, Bohlinger said. He sees documentaries, for example, as tools for advocacy.
The ultimate value of a college degree, Bohlinger said, is “learning how to think critically and how to write.” These skills, he said, are what RIC graduates need to adapt to many different settings.