Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dennis Ryan - Communication Art studies from Millersville University

After graduating from PSA&D I transferred all my credits to Millersville University, Millersville, PA to get my bachelors in the arts. PSA&D is now called PCA&D as they became accredited and shifted from a 3-year degree program to a college (a year or two after I graduated - argh).

My advice - from my experience - is NOT to transfer from one school to another or switch majors unless absolutely necessary. Because by the time I graduated from MU I had between 150-160 total credits. It took me about 7 years, part-time on and off, but I stuck with it. So I should have my masters by credit amount alone - but only have a bachelors. **Shrug** The experience, other than not having another degree to go on my degree wall, was not a loss by far. The many credits and 'major' switch has helped to develop me in to the well rounded, diverse-minded individual that I am. Don't get me wrong, it would be great to have an MFA, and may do it down the road.

I originally enrolled in MU for its well known art education program. Mostly did this knowing that there is not a big job market for the fine arts in Lancaster County - and need to eat and have a place to sleep. A few semesters into the art ed. program I got a chance to student teach; then consequently started to look at a new majors.
Maybe it was:
  1. the school I taught at, Wheatland in Lancaster City, a bit too urban for my country-dwelling tastes
  2. or just the fact that I was teaching Science as a subject to middle schoolers (remember... artist here people!)
  3. or the public school system's premix remedies of 'no child left behind' and 'inclusion' were too initially stark for me and seemed to be failing miserably.
In any case, at that very point, I found it not to be my calling.

Meanwhile... back at Millersville I took an interest, minor so-to-say, in psychology & philosophy. These two fields of study had always interested me, never got exposed to them at PSA&D, and if I had to build 60 credits to get the MU stamp on my degree then I would do it while studying subjects that would enhance concepts that I was painting about already.

Ok then, out of art ed., so what could I major in that would be a good career and keep my creative edge sharp to keep momentum going on my fine art interests?

Enter — communication arts!

I can tell you right now that one of the first things I learned about my artistic tastes upon entering this program was how very little I enjoyed graphic design. Mostly I blame my dislike on my struggles to dumb down my concepts in the hopes of creating a simplified logo or good coupon magazine ad. And I'd say that graphic design is one of the furthest forms of artistic expression away from the fine arts. Basically graphic design is just layout, copying off other successful layouts (folks, it's all been done before) and moving objects around a page (oh yeah, that's layout too). Graphic design is a major part of communication arts though.

So speed bump in my art career road again...

...but, for some reason there were other classes in the comm. arts program that I rather enjoyed. They were any classes that dealt with web design, web development, Flash, actionscript & search engine optimization (actually a couple of those I taught myself for lack of curriculum opportunities). And lucky me because those job areas pay well too! I think my interest in these forms of multimedia design have something to do with the analytical and numerical/math challenges (e.g. actionscript programing & web development) associated with them.

At MU, I had a couple of great influences on how I communicate commercially through art. Jeri Robinson-Lawrence, Art Chair, Professor and all around fantastic human being, really had a sincere interest in students succeeding and put in a great effort. Paul Manlove was just starting to teach at the time I was graduating, but had a fantastic teaching style that went far above and beyond what I expected. Another great influence/experience was a Seymour Chwast 3-day visit, show and lecture. He also spent a couple hours critiquing our individual poster artwork (a rare opportunity by most measures). Seymour Chwast is a celebrated graphic artist and co-founder of Push Pin Studios.