Art Schools with True Campus and Community Feel

After being sure that she wanted to attend a BFA art program within a larger school environment, D21 is now strongly considering stand-alone art schools. BUT she still wants a school that has a true campus with dorms and an on-campus feeling of community (not commuter heavy). Of course, we can’t visit anywhere. So, help is needed!

For reference, intended major is illustration. She doesn’t like LCAD or Otis. She has visited and/or taken classes - too small and really nothing to them outside of classes. We have Ringling, Pratt, and RISD on the list. Looked at MICA online, but not sure how we feel about the safety of the area.

She has top academic grades/test scores (4.7W/4.0UW/ACT33 at high performing public school - also 12 community college credits all in art)) and would probably prefer someplace that values that. Portfolio is average to a little above average? She’ll need scholarships to get down to the $50k range for it to be financially feasible.

Any recommendations of stand-alone art schools that fit that profile?

My D went to Ringling (for CA but friends were in illustration), we visited RISD (been a long time) and have heard good things about Pratt from others. I think your D would do well at any of them. RISD has a stronger emphasis on academics I believe. They all are portfolio based for admissions.

Ringling isn’t large but has a beautiful campus and excellent faculty and facilities. It is not a commuter campus. Clubs abound (mostly art related of course) and a very welcoming community. Great career services. Call or email them for any questions you have about the program; they are very responsive.

One of the biggest differences is weather–Florida vs RI vs NY. RISD was one big trek up and down hills (mountains if you are from FL!) Warm/mild/hot weather vs cold.

RISD has a main street but didn’t seem to go beyond that (or maybe we missed some areas).

Ringling needs a car (or a friend with a car) to really get around (although bus is free to students (or was–check it out) to major shopping areas and Siesta Key beach (one of the finest in the world). Close to Tampa and Orlando. (But to be honest any of the schools keep you pretty busy working on art!)

All of the art schools are about art. Most (if any) do not accept art credits. They will accept credits in non-art subjects which can definitely lighten the work load. But doesn’t hurt to ask,

MICA–I would be concerned about safety. It’s probably okay if you stay directly on the campus but I certainly wouldn’t venture out. It’s one of those places where if you’re a just off a block in the wrong direction you know it.

@gouf78 Thank you so much for your descriptions! We used to live in CT so that environment is familiar, but Florida is completely unknown - I just think of humidity, bugs, and hurricanes. I don’t expect any of her community college art credits to transfer to any art schools, just hoping they will be a check in the positive column for her application. I am hopeful, though, that AP credits will knock off some general ed requirements and lighten the load a little. Although, looking through Ringling’s course catalog even the gen-ed classes sound pretty interesting!

Our daughter is a sophomore at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Great program but lacks a real campus, so I understand what you are going for. She is considering transferring, but where to is the problem. She also did RISD pre-college and felt that there really wasn’t much of a campus or community there. We were interested in a full on art school with a campus too, but we looked at Pratt, Ringling, SCAD, Otis, and USC. Here’s a run down:
Ringling - really nice campus but she really didn’t want to be in Florida. Nothing within walking distance so requires car. Daughter’s art instructor went there and encouraged us to check it out.
SCAD - Excellent programs and community engagement. Great fashion program. Collaborative opportunities. Great dorm mini campus. Building scattered all over town. Questionable leadership tactics. A little bubble in Savannah, but really no campus there – more intertwined with the city.
Otis - Amazing facilities, great work, too small, horrible location.
USC - Massive school, very sports-oriented. Our tour guide was Communications major so not much of an art tour.
Pratt - Great campus, not very convenient to get into the city from Brooklyn, great connections with working artists, prestige, very urban feel
SAIC - Fabulous program, great dorms, no majors, smart kids, no campus, right in middle of the city, near lake/parks. Very difficult to create community
RISD - Very rigorous (over the top, a bit pretentious) program, small town (but not far from other bigger cities), Nice buildings, big hill! (Hard for cycling/running and even walking).
The other school we were considering (and still are) but didn’t get a chance to see is Washington University in St. Louis. Supposedly great liberal arts school, great campus, with a fabulous art department.

@themaze It sounds like we have a lot of overlap in what we’re looking for. Curious what your daughter’s major is and area of the country you’re from?

My daughter just finished Ringling pre-college (online) and was awarded one of their freshman year scholarships so that has moved it to the top of her list. Even though she originally said no way to any Southern school because of the weather and bugs. She wouldn’t have a car either. She loved the instruction and had no complaints about doing art for 8-12 hours a day - which is why she’s weighing heavily towards an art school at this point.

She’s not a stereotypical art kid; most people don’t even know shes does art. None of her friends are art kids. Very introverted too. So, oddly enough, I worry about her being an outsider at an art school.

Pratt - She’s been to NYC (Manhattan, not Brooklyn - and in winter!) and loved the environment. I keep hearing whispers that they have a more pronounced drug/alcohol scene (no idea if true), but that’s definitely not her thing.

RISD - I think she’ll apply. I’ve heard the environment is super competitive and cut-throat. And I keep hearing about the hill.

WUSTL - This one is on her list. It looks great on paper and online. St. Louis, Missouri just doesn’t sound real exciting to her and she worries it’s too far from major industry areas.

UMichigan Stamps - She’s considering applying, but is afraid that the program is too broad. And the winters (which is why she’s not even considering Syracuse).

USC - we visited and the campus was amazing - especially the film school buildings. Sort of the same thought as Michigan - that it’s not focused enough for her. The constant rah-rah vibe turned her off a little too.

Other schools I’m making her apply to as affordable-for-us safeties are CSULB, CSUF, and University of Arizona. All of which seem to have established BFA Illustration programs from what I can tell. Portfolio reviews are done after sophomore year, which is why I have them as a safety. She has visited the Cal States which are both less than an hour from us and didn’t like either one - even though they do have on-campus dorm populations bigger than a typical art school! We will drive to Arizona at some point. The others may have to wait until we know if she’s accepted and what the financial picture looks like.

I can provide some color to SCAD. Full disclosure - I love Savannah! D was accepted and offered a full tuition scholarship but will be attending elsewhere because the program (musical theater) wasn’t a dead on match (acting program not a musical theater program) and D really wanted to be in NY (thanks Covid - let’s see what happens).

However, was very impressed with facilities and the overall theater program. They produce a lot of working actors! The overall school is arts based so regardless of major, your kid will be surrounded by artists of one form or another. I liked that atmosphere for my kid as she doesn’t care about the “traditional college experience” or football games. Although buildings are spread out around the city, there is a new dorm area that is really great. Pretty big area so likely for more than just Freshmen. It includes housing, dining, fitness gym, outdoor relaxing areas, etc. The dorms were great. Huge suite style, modern, etc.

There is a cross pollination of arts at SCAD so you’ll see film students casting theater students in their projects, using set designers, make up artists from the student body.

Savannah itself is a small city full of character, history and GREAT food! Very unique place.

@calmomto3 – LOL. Just gotta say your D is a stereotypical art kid if she likes doing art 8-12 hours a day. You might find she is less introverted when surrounded by other kids who also love art.

@gouf78 LOL - you have a good point!

just chiming in to say thanks for all the info guys. My D16 is looking at architecture grad schools at several of the places mentioned. Good to hear from your perspectives! thanks!

I don’t have personal knowledge of the Ringling school, but as someone raised in the Northeast, I can say that Sarasota is a lovely city. The Gulf side of Florida is quite different from the Atlantic version we tend to imagine - fewer hurricanes for one thing. Regarding art schools, what about the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts - it comes highly regarded by my artist niece, who praises it for its unusually flexible curriculum. The school I know best is the School of Visual Arts in New York. It is quite spread out, so no real campus, but there are dorms and I believe each of the different departments has its own sense of community. Two of my brother’s kids attended SVA, and it has been fun to see how their careers have developed from what the school gave them, including some terrific internships. My S21 may end up in art school after working for a year or so, and these are all places I hope she will consider.

CCAD (Columbus College of Art and Design) has a campus with dorms. It’s a private school and would be in budget. Since Columbus is home to Ohio State and several other colleges there are plenty of young people.

This is an osu link about Columbus that I like because it is geared toward young people and has an overview of Neighborhoods, Night Life, Events, etc. and a promotional video for the City of Columbus.

Take a look at Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI), too:

The campus is really nice, and it sits between the Nelson-Atkins Museum (one of the top art museums in the country) and the Kemper. Coming from the west coast, we also enjoyed Kansas City as a city.

CCAD is a top contender for us, too. It’s a little more downtown, where KCAI is in a neighborhood.