FAQs about Studio Art

Do I need to be a major in order to take an art class?

No, students from across the campus enroll in Studio Art as well as Art History courses. However, it is important that you have completed the stated prerequisites before registering for 200- and 300-level courses, particularly in Studio Art.

I really wanted to take ARTS XXX but it’s full... what should I do?

Plan to attend the first class session to see if space becomes available. It is not uncommon for students to change plans after registering or after being given permission to register, so the online enrollment figures may be misleading. But once classes begin, everyone needs formal permission of the instructor (in the form of a registration override or a signature on a paper form) to add a studio course, and you must be attending the class to obtain this. Email the instructor a week ahead so that he or she may know to expect you on the first day.

The class I wanted to take conflicts with my schedule, so could I do an independent study instead?

An independent study project is something that you might propose to a professor after you have exhausted the regular coursework in a particular medium. It provides an opportunity to research a specific topic in greater depth, or to combine topics or media in a unique manner, and should be seen as an extension to, not a replacement for, our advanced curriculum.

What’s the difference between an independent study and a thesis project?

An independent study project consists of one semester of self-directed research under the guidance of a faculty advisor who knows the subject (and you) well. Ideally, your advisor should be a regular member of the faculty with whom you have already taken advanced courses and have established a good working relationship. An independent study project may involve more than one faculty advisor, may involve collaborative research, and may be structured to earn a full or half credit. A 360/370 thesis project, by contrast, is a year long research project for two credits at the advanced level, structured so as to meet the requirements of the college-wide honors program. It is guided by a faculty advisor, but formally assessed by the full studio faculty in the fall and an orals committee consisting of four faculty members in the spring It is the only path towards honors in the department of art, and is only open to seniors who qualify for honors in the major. (See guidelines for senior theses in Art History and Studio Art) 

Will I be able to study abroad as part of my major?

Art History, Studio Art, and Architecture majors are encouraged to travel and study abroad. First check with the office of International Study regarding pre-approved programs for study abroad, and then speak with your faculty advisor and/or program director about how these options might fit with your overall plan of study. Media Arts and Sciences majors as well as those aiming to double major may find it hard to schedule a full year or semester away, so keep in mind summer internships, Wintersession opportunities, and post-bac fellowships that may also involve international travel and research.

How many transfer courses can I count towards my major?

Up to two courses may be counted towards a minimum major in the Art Department (one studio/one art history). Students sometimes obtain transfer credit for additional courses taken elsewhere, but these are applied toward general degree credit. Note that students who wish to have transfer credit in studio art counted toward the major must bring back a portfolio of work actually produced in the class for assessment and advising.

I think I might want to go to grad school... what should I do?

One of the many reasons to have a good relationship with a faculty advisor is so that you may have sustained conversations about this and other goals as you develop your major. First, aim to complete your 100-level requirements by the end of your sophomore year so that you can explore more specialized topics with a broad perspective and can see how apparently unrelated disciplines connect. As you move into your junior year, you and your advisor should begin discussing where your academic and personal choices appear to be leading you, and what kind of work you might pursue through a thesis, independent study and/or seminar course in your senior year. It’s a good idea to take classes with a variety of art professors, not only for intellectual and creative breadth, but also to insure that you’ll have advice, insight, and recommendations from several mentors when the time comes to research relevant graduate programs and fellowships, and assemble graduate school applications and portfolios. While some studio art majors apply to MFA and M Arch programs during the senior year, most apply for graduate programs a year or two after completing their degrees a Wellesley. This too should be discussed with your faculty advisor(s).

How do I go about getting an internship?

Check the list of arts-based internships sponsored and/or listed with the Center for Work and Service, talk with your professors, and compare notes with other majors throughout the department. Some internships are arranged informally, while others are the result of a comprehensive application and interview process. Consider the possibilities well in advance, and revisit your goals regularly so that you’ll have taken relevant coursework and will be ready to respond should a sudden opportunity present itself. Note that additional funding for internships may be available through the art department (for declared Architecture majors) should you locate a compelling internship opportunity that would otherwise be unpaid. 

FAQs for Prospective Students

I’m thinking of applying to Wellesley. Can I see the studio facilities? Can I sit in on a class? 

You are welcome to walk through the art department and speak with students who are working independently in the studios or staffing the Art library. Our primary facilities are located in two buildings, the Jewett Arts Center and Pendleton West, which are connected by a glass walkway. If the art department office is open when you drop by, please introduce yourself, as we may have someone available to give you a brief tour specific to your interests. If you would like to sit in on a regular class, please check with the Admissions office to find out which instructors have indicated that they can accommodate visitors on the day of your campus visit.  

Do I need to submit a portfolio when I apply to Wellesley? Can I show it to you now? 

The faculty does not conduct personal portfolio reviews for prospective applicants, but works closely with the Admissions office to identify our most promising visual arts applicants as applications are received. Please check the Wellesley Admissions or Common Application website for guidelines about submitting a visual arts supplement with your application.  

If you submit a visual arts supplement, a member of the studio art faculty will review your images and advise the Admissions team reading your file. While an outstanding portfolio may strengthen your application, it is but one of many factors that the Board of Admissions considers when making final decisions about each entering class. So if you have less than ten strong pieces to present in a visual arts portfolio, it may be best to concentrate on other parts of your application to Wellesley College. 

Since many talented individuals are undecided about a major when they enter college, we welcome all interested students into our introductory courses, whether or not they have taken art previously, or have a portfolio in hand. We find that many academically gifted students do excellent work in the visual arts once they have an opportunity to engage with the subject seriously at the college level.  

What are you looking for when you review my portfolio? 

In terms of visual skill, we look for dexterity, flexibility, and inventiveness with whatever materials and tools you have available. We notice how you handle basic visual considerations such as color and space.  As we look at your work, we notice what kinds of subjects you have been exploring and whether your approach appears to be shaped by a particular teacher or teaching method. We like to see examples of some projects that were time intensive, as well as some that were produced in a more intuitive manner, so freehand drawings are particularly helpful to find in a portfolio. Regardless of the tools or media utilized, we’ll be paying close attention to the way that you compose an image, balance an object, and/or construct a sequence of vantage points. We’ll be interested to know whether you have already had some exposure to art history or contemporary art. Basically, we’ll look for cues that you will be open to learning new approaches and that you will be able to take advantage of our offerings. It is not particularly important to us that you have a consistent body of work  at this time. 

I submitted an AP portfolio and got a high grade, so can I skip ARTS 1XX? 

We do not maintain a ranking of the visual arts supplements reviewed nor keep any of the material sent to us during the college application process. So once you are here, if you have images of recent work that you think might help us advise you individually as you register for classes, please bring a portfolio to campus to discuss with a studio art instructor and/or the Director of the Studio Art Program.  

While some AP coursework may be credited towards your Wellesley degree, AP credits will not be applied towards the minimum eleven-units that comprise a Studio Art or Architecture major. When it comes to the question of where you should be placed in the studio curriculum, we’ll advise you based on our own assessment of your past projects, as well as your demonstrated abilities in the classes you take at Wellesley. We’re most interested in the work that you’ve completed in the past 3-6 months, but when you first arrive on campus, your portfolio may include work produced in the context of AP classes.  

I’m not sure I can take art every semester since I think I’ll be majoring in another subject - how can I keep art in my life when I’m busy with other requirements? 

Once on campus, keep an eye out for announcements of our non-credit, “applied arts” studio workshops (which often take place on weekends) as well as our gallery receptions, bus trips to New York City museums, and guest lectures in the Art Department. Check out the rotating exhibitions in our Jewett Galleries and see what’s happening at the Davis Museum next door. 

Note what the various student art clubs are hosting and organizing. A quick walk through the hallways of Jewett and Pendleton West will keep you informed of the range of projects and special events unfolding here each semester- some of these are very spontaneous and not listed in the formal Arts at Wellesley calendar booklet. You don’t need to be enrolled in a class or planning an art major to take advantage of these opportunities. 

Is it possible to audit a class in the art department? 

Auditors are welcome in many art department courses, particularly those in Art History. Email the instructor just before the semester begins to see if he or she expects to have space available for auditors. Opportunities for auditing courses are more limited in Studio Art courses and Art History seminars due to the size of the classes and the nature of the assigned work. 

I’ve done a lot of art in high school. Would it be ok for me to work in the studios on my own? 

Sorry, you’ll need to be enrolled in a regular studio art course or taking an applied arts workshop to use the specialized studio facilities. But if you have a specific project that requires technical equipment, please be in touch as we may be able to suggest other resources on campus that you might utilize, and we are always happy to hear about emerging creative projects!