Studio Art

Studio Art

PROGRAM OVERVIEW The Department of Art and Design helps students to develop their artistic and intellectual potential, explore new areas, and discover career opportunities. Drake offers both intensive experiences in art and a solid liberal arts education. Students are immersed in a professional art and design environment where they can develop comprehensive technical skills and achieve formal and conceptual abilities in preparation for rewarding visual arts careers.

As an art or design major at Drake, you will receive individual attention from your faculty adviser and other professors—all professional designers, artists, and scholars—who are passionate about their fields and their teaching. Classes are small, generally ranging in size from 10 to 20 students.

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Studio Art 
This degree recognizes that many students want an art and design degree in combination with concentrated course work in an academic field. Individualized academic goals can be achieved while students earn their emphasis in drawing, painting, printmaking, or sculpture.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Studio Art 
This degree is for students who wish to enter an intensive studio art program or continue their education at the graduate level. Professional skills and a personal aesthetic philosophy are achieved by students with an emphasis in drawing, painting, printmaking, or sculpture. Students must possess an exceptionally strong commitment to their work. The comprehensive art curriculum is enhanced with a variety of individualized choices from the Drake Curriculum.

FACULTY The Department of Art and Design includes 10 full-time faculty, all of whom hold the highest degrees in their field and are practicing designers, artists, and scholars. All five full-time studio art faculty are engaged in teaching classes from the introductory to advanced levels.

ACADEMIC PREPARATION Students are not required to prepare a presentation of their work to be admitted to the studio arts program at Drake. However, in order to be eligible for merit scholarships offered by the Department of Art and Design, students must submit an application and portfolio of digital images of their work. A scholarship application form that requires applicants to submit digital images of their work is available on the Department of Art and Design website.

REQUIREMENTS FOR MAJOR All students entering the major (B.A. and B.F.A.) must first complete the department’s foundation courses. This program of courses, completed in the first year, emphasizes fundamental skills in art history, drawing, and 2D and 3D design.

Drawing (B.A./B.F.A.) 
Drawing provides fundamental skills for students majoring in all areas of the visual arts. The drawing emphasis develops formal and conceptual abilities as the basis for expressive representation and visual communication. Each course is designed to expand students’ understanding of pictorial structures and the process of conceptualization, utilizing a full range of graphic elements. Students are introduced to a variety of media and subject matter, and imagery will be developed through the balance of observation and conceptualization.

Painting (B.A./B.F.A.) 
The painting emphasis fosters creativity within a time-tested visual tradition in ways that lead to significant artistic expression. Students are mentored in the development of critical visual thinking skills necessary to the growth of a highly individualized aesthetic. Technical skills are honed in a process-based environment designed to facilitate a diversity of investigative methods. At advanced stages students are encouraged to both embrace and test the traditions of painting through the deliberate synthesis of materials, methods, and ideas.

Printmaking (B.A./B.F.A.) 
The printmaking emphasis develops technical abilities as well as creative methods for the visual articulation of individual concepts and emotions. A full range of relief, intaglio, and lithographic techniques are taught on all levels in a spacious, well-equipped and efficiently organized studio. Students learn the skillful use of numerous essential printmaking tools, materials, and processes and acquire an understanding of their characteristics and appropriateness to varying image-making demands. The development of clarity of vision, purpose, and self-direction is supported by discussions and critical analyses in both group and individual contexts.

Sculpture (B.A./B.F.A.) 
The sculpture emphasis enhances creative abilities by developing a comprehensive understanding of three-dimensional concepts and processes. The sculpture facilities provide students with well-equipped studios for woodworking, welding, forging, casting, and installation. Students gain a strong understanding of traditional and nontraditional materials and methods while honing their ability to critically evaluate their own and peer work. This comprehensive engagement encourages individual expression by establishing an understanding of selecting the appropriate form, material, and process to support an idea.

DRAKE CURRICULUM The Drake Curriculum, required of all undergraduates, is designed to help students meet personal and professional goals as they acquire fundamental knowledge and abilities in ten Areas of Inquiry, including communication, critical thinking, artistic experience, historical consciousness, information and technology literacy, international and multicultural experiences, scientific and quantitative literacy, values and ethics, and engaged citizenship. Students work closely with their academic advisers to craft a program of study in general education that prepares students for civic and professional leadership.

The Drake Curriculum also requires a First Year Seminar, which fosters development of critical thinking and written and oral communication skills through a topical focus, and a Senior Capstone in which students demonstrate the capacity to bring information, skills, and ideas to bear on one project.

INTERNSHIPS & OPPORTUNITIES Drake provides students with many opportunities to engage in art and design outside the classroom. The Department of Art and Design holds exhibitions of work by students, faculty and invited artists during the school year, including the annual juried Student Art Exhibition.

Students can enhance their art and design education and supplement their resume or professional portfolio with internships and off-campus employment in a variety of art-related areas. Many nonprofit organizations and businesses in Des Moines, Iowa's capital, value Drake art majors as high-quality candidates for part-time positions. Art and design majors also are in high demand for producing works for campus organizations, publications, and events.

Facilities in the Harmon Fine Arts Center include the 3,500-square-foot Anderson Gallery. Providing 1,800 square feet of exhibition space, rooms for handling and storing works of art, and a reception lobby, the Anderson Gallery is an exciting showcase for work by visiting artists, students, and faculty. Annual assistantships are available through the gallery, providing students with unique opportunities for hands-on experience in gallery management. Students also have the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with exhibiting artists from around the country. The Anderson Gallery is a visible and vital member of the Des Moines art community, attracting local and national visitors.

Adjacent to the Anderson Gallery is the Weeks Gallery, providing an additional 1,000 square feet of exhibition space. The Weeks Gallery is exclusively reserved for student exhibitions, from senior thesis shows to group shows by the student-led art club VAAD. Nationally and internationally recognized artists and other visual arts professionals come to campus each year to give lectures and workshops. In addition, field trips allow students to observe major collections and exhibitions in such cities as Chicago, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. Drake students also take advantage of the exhibitions and lectures offered by the Des Moines Art Center, internationally recognized for its collection of 20th century works of art.

CAREER OPTIONS Painter; sculptor; print artist; pursue advance study in graduate school; artist assistant; artist-in-residence; artist-in-schools; gallery and museum work including curatorial, design and installation; art dealer/gallery owner; art agent/consultant; muralist; model and pattern maker; contract printer (technician); print publisher; diorama artist; illustrator; technical illustrator; police artist/court artist; preparator; art restorer; art education—elementary, secondary, public and private schools.

STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVITIES The art club VAAD is open to all students and is self-directed. Activities have included field trips, attending community lectures and exhibitions, group readings and discussion of various contemporary art topics, and organizing campus art activities such as end-of-the-year picnics and art exhibitions in local businesses.


  • The Department of Art and Design is accredited by the National Association of Art and Design (NASAD).
  • Students can apply for the Judy Smith Memorial Award to support their Capstone experience.