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Art at Work at Kent State Stark

Posted Aug. 4, 2014
enter photo description
Kent State University senior Spencer Molnar is using his
artistic skills in business, working as a silk screener for
a promotional products company. Kent State University at
Stark's new Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts degree is suited
for students like Molnar who pursue art careers outside a
traditional fine arts field.

In her Kent State University at Stark painting class, Christina (Fisk) Lorman learned much more than art skills and fundamentals. She discovered firsthand how painting could relieve stress. Three years later, Lorman has a degree in psychology, a minor in fine arts and a budding career in art therapy. She is not the only Kent State Stark student or alumnus to turn a love for art into a career that crosses fields.

Illustrator Jacqueline Dillard worked with Northeast Ohio Medical University scientist Hans Thewissen on a book about whale evolution. Spencer Molnar uses his printmaking skills as a silk screener for a promotional products company. Megan Germano is combining her ceramics experience and communication skills into a career as an art teacher.

Today, more art students are using their skills outside a traditional fine arts field. And that has led Kent State Stark to begin offering a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Fine Arts degree — an alternative to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (B.F.A.).

Flexible, Broader Degree

The B.A. in fine arts program began in fall 2013. Compared to a B.F.A., it allows students to take a wider array of studio courses and general electives.

“Our B.A. in fine arts is a flexible and broader degree for students who want a more liberal arts education,” says Jack McWhorter, associate professor and coordinator for the Department of Art at Kent State Stark. “As with other degrees, students can create the blend of courses that best suits their skills and ambitions.”

Like those in the B.F.A. program, students pursuing a B.A. in fine arts will develop craftsmanship as well as critical- and creative-thinking skills. But they also will take more liberal arts classes, fostering skills that will appeal to employers in the fine arts field and beyond.

Beyond Creativity

Communication Exhibits Inc., a company in Canal Fulton, Ohio, that creates trade show exhibits, permanent lobby installations and museum displays, employs a full staff of designers specializing in graphics, engineering, building and interactive design.

“In business, artists don’t just create,” says Ann Conkle, executive vice president at Communication Exhibits Inc. “They need to consider budgets, timeframes and other pieces of the puzzle. They need to understand the end result — if their artwork will be enlarged as a mural or need to stand up, for example. Design is part of everything we do, but it isn’t everything.”

Thinking creatively across disciplines is well-suited to students with a B.A. in fine arts, says Carey McDougall, former assistant professor of art at Kent State Stark. McDougall says that these students are primed to be the continuous learners and innovators that modern workplaces need.

“In all of our art classes, we ask students what questions they want to pose with their artwork and what discussions they want to spark,” says McDougall. “Successful companies do the same, continuously asking hard questions and driving discussions. Our students are prepared to contribute in that kind of environment.”

Opening New Doors for Art Majors

A B.A. in fine arts is not only valuable for companies focused on art and design. Organizations of all kinds, including marketing, education and technology, need creative problem solvers and visual communicators, says McDougall.

Kent State Stark’s new program promises to open new doors for art students, including potential opportunities with Communication Exhibits Inc. McDougall and Conkle currently are developing a Communication Exhibits Inc. internship program just for Kent State Stark students.

“Most of our designers aren’t from this area,” says Conkle. “But we’d prefer to hire local people who already feel at home here and will stay long term.”

She will soon have even more qualified candidates from Kent State Stark. And so will the rest of Stark County’s business community.

“Artists with a liberal arts education can bring countless new ideas to workplaces and help employers move forward,” says McDougall.

Source: Kent State Stark’s Encompass magazine