August 25, 2014 : By Drew Menard
This spring, Liberty University’s School of Communication & Creative Arts is launching a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) and a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) program in the Department of Studio & Digital Arts (SADA), two highly coveted degrees in the field.
“To offer a terminal degree is a really big thing,” said Todd Smith, chair of the SADA department, regarding the M.F.A. “It’s the top-tier degree in the field of art and design, which says that we’ve developed our infrastructure in terms of things like classrooms, the quality of our faculty, and the quality of our curriculum.”
Meanwhile, the 127-credit-hour B.F.A. offers students the opportunity to narrow their focus and pursue job-specific skills.
Liberty’s art and design students are already proving their excellence on the industry’s major stages. In February, SADA students topped all regional schools at the American Advertising Federation’s Western Virginia Student ADDY Award competition, taking home 20 gold and 20 silver awards. At the district level, the students competed against other institutions across Virginia and the Carolinas and earned the most awards out of any school present.
Now fully accredited, the new visual arts programs will give graduates a tremendous advantage in a number of disciplines. Both B.F.A. and M.F.A. students can pursue courses of study including two-dimensional art (with courses in photography, painting, and drawing), three-dimensional art (with courses in sculpting and ceramics), and graphic design (with courses in web design, print design, illustration, game design, and animation).
Dr. Norman Mintle, dean of the School of Communication & Creative Arts, is excited for the skills-oriented curriculum that will meet a major need shared by arts students.
“It is our stated goal to help prepare students to become professionals of such excellence that they become ambassadors first of God’s excellence in the arts, and also ambassadors for our programs — examples of the kinds of people employers are desperate to hire,” Mintle said. “In other words, we want our graduates to be so well-prepared as professionals that they actually delight their future employers.”
Mintle believes that even current students of similar programs may want to consider making the switch.
“When our current students who seriously desire a career in the fine arts investigate the degree completion plan of the B.F.A. — or for those ready to graduate, they may consider returning for the M.F.A. — I believe they’ll find the intense and intentional focus on their art form both invigorating and necessary,” he said.
With spring enrollment for the B.F.A. expected to reach 50 students and 25 expected in the M.F.A., the new degrees open major opportunities for aspiring artists and designers across the globe. According to Smith, Liberty has a distinct geographic advantage on the East Coast, offering convenient access to international art galleries in Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C. And for those too far to relocate, Liberty will offer the Graphic Design concentrations online in both the B.F.A. and M.F.A. programs beginning August 2015.
“Because so few Christian colleges and universities offer a B.F.A. or M.F.A., serious art students from around the world will explore our new programs,” Mintle explained. “The strong emphasis on taking more major courses (and fewer general education courses), means that — purposefully — students will have focused extra time to pursue their God-given arts discipline. We are crafting unique fine arts curricula that will become very attractive to arts students across the country.”
Smith agreed, noting that the near-ubiquitous availability of Liberty’s online programs will open the door for many more interested students.
“There are people all over the world who want a degree like this,” he said.
The 60-credit-hour M.F.A. will also present a unique opportunity for students who want to teach the arts at the collegiate level, where the need for solid, Christian instruction is at an all-time high.
“The need for Christians in the fine arts is huge,” Smith noted. “We can look back on cultures and see who they were by what they created, and so our students are able to go into culture and help influence it through the arts. They are working as salt and light.”
Interested students must apply by presenting their portfolios, a process which Smith confirmed will be highly competitive. Yet underpinning all Studio & Digital Arts programs is the belief that becoming an artisan is a calling — a calling that Christ shared, and that Smith hopes to see more students accept.
“The word ‘carpenter’ in the Greek means a person who was a craftsman, an artisan. Here’s the God of the universe coming to earth in a seemingly menial role. He’s the one who created the same materials He would use to make doors, wagon wheels, or a house. It is astounding to think that Christ did that. He could have been anything He wanted to be, but He decided to be an artisan because that was His nature in eternity.”