Re-Imagining Art & Design Education

“Art is the science of the possible.”
Gunalan Nadarajan, Vice Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies

In 2011, MICA made the boldest moves in its history to enhance its leadership as an academic standard-bearer.

In addition to recruiting its first classes for the Business of Art and Design Master of Professional Studies (MPS), Community Arts MFA, Curatorial Practice MFA, Illustration Practice MFA, and Social Design MA programs, the College added leadership of graduate studies to Gunalan Nadarajan’s portfolio. The forecasted synergy between research and graduate studies will set a new precedent for an art college, as it will enhance the ability of faculty and students to explore and highlight the transformative impact that work created at MICA has on global society.


The development of inventive ways to teach students has become the new normal at MICA. Just as they push students to look for unique solutions to complex challenges, MICA’s faculty has made the development of first-of-their-kind academic programs a hallmark of the institution. The new MPS in the Business of Art and Design program, with enrollment 35 percent greater than anticipated, uses an unconventional combination of online instruction and weekend residencies so that creative professionals of all kinds gain a greater understanding of management and entrepreneurship right from their homes, businesses, or studios. A new major in humanistic studies will allow students to blend studio work with aggressive pursuit of liberal arts subject matter including philosophy, ethics, history, science, and humanities. A new undergraduate concentration in sustainability and social practice will focus students’ creative energy to find pragmatic solutions to issues involving the environment, economy, and social justice.

Like great art-making, the creation of uncommon curricula often involves utilization of existing objects of significance. Such was the case in spring 2011 when the College acquired the lion’s share of the historic Globe Printing Poster Company’s working collection of wood type, images, and illustrations used for letterpress printing.

By studying the traditional, labor-intensive method the company used to create iconic posters for the world’s most well-known entertainment acts, including James Brown, Ike and Tina Turner, Isaac Hayes, and Miles Davis, and working with the tools employed by the company over its 82-year history, students who have matured in an age of digital design and printing can examine the roots of the craft. MICA’s acquisition included more than 350 drawers of bold, regular, italic, and circus font wood type, ranging in height from half an inch to several feet, and countless cases of larger letters. Also included were original posters and more than 10,000 letterpress image “cuts” of R&B and rock and roll stars, carnivals, circuses, and burlesque shows that made up the company’s client base. The Globe collection materials will be used by graduate and undergraduate students in printmaking, graphic design, and illustration as well as by visiting artists, researchers, and members of the community.

Artists and designers need grounding in traditional art-making and new opportunities to explore learning, collaboration, and the pursuit of projects of meaning. The College’s ability to provide ever relevant courses and customizable degree plans is a key factor in attracting larger numbers of students to apply, and competition for a slot in MICA’s entering classes has increased dramatically. The fall 2011 freshman class, for example, is the largest in the school’s history, and graduate student applications are at an all-time high.