LACMA and Education: Preparing Young Artists for the Next Step

June 5, 2012

On the first day of class, the students cannot sit far enough away from each other. By week two, however, they plan trips to the beach after class, bring in baked goods to share, and openly discuss last night’s homework. These students are enrolled in “Art School Ready: Building Your Art Portfolio,” a course that is geared toward preparing students for the daunting process of applying to art school. They are serious about their art and will spend four weeks of their summer at LACMA cranking out more than one hundred drawings each.


An Art School Ready student works on a charcoal drawing

Art School Ready: Building Your Art Portfolio was designed for LACMA by artist and Otis instructor Michael Wright with LACMA’s Education Department. He’s been teaching the intensive class every summer since its inception in 2003. “It’s a challenging class taught on a college-preparatory level. The kids have to be serious and on-project. The first day homework is due, half the class looks around at the competition around them and says ‘OK, we’ve gotta get serious!’,” Wright says. “We are working with traditional subjects: landscape, still life, portraits, and the figure—and that takes focus and engagement.”


Guest speaker Art Durinski reviews a student's porfolio

The kids in the class are high school students. They work from life drawing models (yes, nude), nontraditional still lifes (robots, stuffed animals, pirate skulls), and LACMA’s collection. Portfolio classes are taught all over the city, but what sets this class apart from those is that it is taught in a museum environment. Having access to museum-quality work—for inspiration, for study, for building observational skills—is key. The intensity of the class is also important. The growth from day one to day twenty-one is phenomenal due to the fact that the kids are living and breathing art every day (and night, with homework) for a whole month. The energy builds as the class progresses, and the students are completely engaged.


Art School Ready students draw from artworks in LACMA's Latin American art collection

If you want to go in art or design, you have to have a portfolio. And, art school applications have specific requirements. Guest speakers representing university art and art school programs review the portfolios and provide critical feedback and an insider’s perspective. Some of the students are only high school sophomores or juniors, so college is a few years away, but they will certainly be ready for application time when it comes. Sometimes Wright hears back from former students seeking important letters of recommendation. Over the years he’s heard back from his Art School Ready graduates announcing acceptance letters to UC Santa Barbara, Yale, and Chicago Institute of Art.

Enroll today in Art School Ready—this summer’s session begins June 25.

Karen Satzman, Director of Youth and Family programs