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Want to make art that matters? Three questions to ask art school admissions

Globalization in the 21st century has brought with it a growing host of social, economic and political challenges. Poverty is deepening in many areas. Corrupt, controlling powers are on the rise. Minority voices are being stifled. The environment is destabilizing, threatening homes, health, and livelihoods.

These difficulties are tough, but not insurmountable. To take them on in a proactive and productive way, creative people will be needed, along with their new ideas and fresh perspectives.

Will you be one of these creative people? Do you believe that artists can change the world?

Some very influential thinkers certainly think so.

This is what we’re talking about when we talk about making art that matters. There is a rising movement among young artists, like you, who are committed to using their talents, skills, and unique outlook to make a difference addressing the most pressing concerns in their communities and in the world. If you’d like to join them, the right art college can help.

As you search for an art college, here are three critical questions to ask to find the right school for you, where you can begin to make art that matters.

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1. How do you help your students make a difference in the world?

Many art colleges incorporate making art that matters — or something similar — into their mission statements. But do they really mean it?

It’s a matter of priorities. Does a college integrate making an impact in the world into everyday classroom teaching? Do instructors push students to confront social issues in illustration classes and solve human problems in industrial design?

Or, is making art that matters a side concern, paid lip service with one or two seminars a semester and relegated to volunteer student groups rather than part of the curriculum?

If you’re serious about making a difference, these are all good questions to pose to faculty, staff, and students as you tour campuses and sit for interviews.

2. Are there courses that help students get involved in community projects?

Change starts locally. Great movements begin with socially aware artists reaching out into their communities, helping to give voices to the overlooked, uniting disparate groups through inspiration and a shared creative mission. An art college committed to making art that matters will include such community outreach opportunities throughout its course offerings and can demonstrate them through its learning outcomes.

3. How are the faculty members making art that matters?

Wherever you end up attending art college, faculty will be your mentors and your professional models. How they strive to make an impact with their work—or not—can say a lot about their commitment to making art that matters.

At California College of the Arts, for example, Claudia Bernardi, a professor of community arts, is focused on working in and with communities that suffered state terror and violence. She helped found a center for arts education and human rights in El Salvador. Her community-based projects include a 30-foot long mural completed by detained undocumented immigrant Central American youths, depicting their perilous journey across the U.S.-Mexico border.

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