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Studio Art

Why study studio art at MBC?

  • The studio art major is very energetic and progressive. It is one of the largest majors at Mary Baldwin.
  • Our studio art major combines technical and formal training with informed conceptual thinking. The result is the student’s ability to find her own way of working as a visual artist. We don’t teach a particular style: rather, we teach the ability to find a way of working in an informed and skillful way, and we encourage a confident yet self-critical approach to creativity.
  • For a small liberal arts college, the studio art major at Mary Baldwin offers an impressive range of disciplines and media. Majors select one or two areas of emphasis from the following: drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics, graphic design, and extended media. 
  • Each area is coordinated by an experienced, caring teacher who is also an exhibiting artist or practicing designer engaged with the contemporary art world.
  • Class sizes in studio art are small, ranging from 5–15 students. Professors devote substantial time to working individually with students, taking sincere interest in each student’s current and future success as an artist and person. For the relatively small size of the college, the studio art faculty is large: a total of seven faculty members – two full-time and five adjunct faculty. There is also a close working relationship between the studio art program and the art history program.
  • Our studio art program offers the advantage of studying in the context of the liberal arts. The contemporary art world is interdisciplinary in nature, reaching into the explorations, discoveries, and practices of other academic disciplines (the natural sciences, social sciences, literature, cultural theory, etc.). Studying studio art at a liberal arts college like Mary Baldwin promotes intellectual and creative breadth — a broad body of knowledge and ways of understanding the world that promote conceptual and creative connections.
  • The studio art major benefits greatly from the college’s Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar Program and the new Firestone Lecture Series in Contemporary Art. Visiting artists, critics, and curators have included Joan Snyder, Melissa Miller, Richard Fleischner, Thomas Nozkowski, Claudia Bernardi, Margaret Evangeline, Leon Golub, Sharon Farmer, Richard Carlyon, Suzi Gablik, Elizabeth King, Robert Storr, and others. Visiting artists frequently interact closely with our students — teaching, lecturing, leading critiques, or talking individually with students.
  • Students are encouraged to participate in regular department field trips.  There is the annual four-day/three-night trip to New York City. Every semester there is a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit various museums and galleries. And often there are trips to Charlottesville, Richmond, or Roanoke to hear lectures or panels, or visit museums and galleries. During May Term students may study Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture in Rome, Florence, Venice, and smaller cities of northern Italy.
  • Hunt Gallery is the college’s art gallery located in the lower east wing of Hunt Hall. The gallery is dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary work by professional artists of emerging or established regional or national/international reputation. It seeks to exhibit work that reflects a wide variety of media and artistic intentions. The Department of Art and Art History regards Hunt Gallery as a classroom offering rich pedagogical experiences to the community. Six or seven professional exhibitions are scheduled during each academic year, and MBC student work is shown towards the end of the spring semester and during May Term.
  • Current student work is exhibited regularly throughout the academic year in Deming Hall. The Deming Alternative Gallery (a hallway space) is located on the first floor of Deming.
  • Many of our studio art graduates become professionally engaged in the visual arts. See the “career ideas” section.
  • Students are taught the following skills and practices that are essential in art but that also apply to other life and career areas:
    • perceptual skills
    • analytical and critical competence
    • technical skills related to specific media
    • the importance of process
    • creative problem-solving
    • various means of artistic conceptualization.
  • Goals of the studio art major include cultivating informed student-artists and student-designers who
    • embrace the necessity of process
    • appreciate the intellectual and practical value of studying art in the liberal arts context, making interdisciplinary connections;
    • analyze and evaluate ideas, making plausible and creative connections, inferences, and interpretations
    • work and think independently
    • develop creative and intellectual courage
    • comprehend the written word – reading critically; clarifying and critiquing texts as well as visual work
    • make effective oral presentations, using art and design vocabulary accurately and effectively
    • organize time and establish a strong work ethic
    • listen carefully; be receptive to criticism
    • possess an understanding of important issues in contemporary art
    • respect the importance of the idea of tradition
    • respect diverse traditions throughout the history of art
  • In 100 and 200 level courses students are taught key elements of the language of visual form as well as critical thinking, and they explore various means of conceptualization. Upper-level courses offer opportunities for individualized experimentation and creative communication — projects where students construct meaning about themselves and their relationship to society and culture, and other aspects of the human condition.