Past a dim, narrow hallway, through a warehouse in the art and design department sits the senior art studio — the second home of art and design senior Chloe Millhauser. Canvases are stacked against every wall, reflective of the many hours spent painting by the eight artists that make up the graduating class in the studio art concentration.
“It’s nice when we’re all working in here. We all play music and talk a lot about art. It’s an enjoyable little place,” Millhauser said.
Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto influenced Millhauser’s choice to be an art and design major at a polytechnic university.
“I like to make things rather than just learn about things,” Millhauser said. “I felt that Cal Poly had a good balance of learning the theory, learning the history, learning content — but also really being able to make things.”
Video by Emily Merten
Studio art concentrations apply the Learn by Doing motto outside of the classroom at the annual Juried Student Exhibition hosted by the art and design department during spring quarter. Art and design students of all concentrations can submit their work to the exhibition.
“Outside jurors from the community come in and judge all the work,” Millhauser said. “They determine who gets into the show and who places with awards. I’ve gotten in every year so far.”
Art and design senior Erica Patstone — Millhauser’s roommate — is part of the graphic design concentration. Graphic design students have the opportunity to submit to shows as well. Patstone said she is excited to be a part of the senior show this spring.
“All the graduating seniors are able to display the best work that they’ve done over the course of their four years,” Patstone said. “That’s a cool one. It’s kind of like a sendoff and a way to see what [students] have done with their four years in the major.”
While all concentrations can participate in yearly shows, Patstone said there are differences between each concentration.
She noticed the social aspect of the graphic design concentration is different from the other two art and design concentrations, studio art and photography and video.
“There’s a different relationship with my peers because there’s just more people to get to know,” Patstone said. “I definitely have my close friends [in the graphic design concentration], but I don’t work as personally with them. [Millhauser] has a senior studio, and she has a physically smaller space. We don’t necessarily all work together from the same space because our work is heavily from our laptops.”
Cal Poly currently has 252 art and design students — 61 of which declared the studio art concentration.
A small major brings a different experience to the classroom, one that photography and video professor Lana Caplan appreciated when teaching at Cal Poly for the first time Fall 2016.
“I think it fosters a really great relationship between faculty and students because we’re working with the same students in multiple classes over multiple years,” Caplan said. “It really allows us to develop their techniques and directions of what they want to do with their work.”
Aside from the closeness, Caplan also found that Cal Poly’s art and design department had a different approach to the major’s curriculum compared to her experience at schools created specifically for the arts.
“The focus of the department has a balance of commercial photography and commercial art with the fine arts,” Caplan said. “In a previous art school I taught, the commercial aspect wasn’t a part of what the students were interested in learning — or what the curriculum was really set up for.”
This unique approach to curriculum, coupled with a smaller size, sets Cal Poly’s art and design major apart. While each concentration has their own areas of expertise, students of all concentrations have contributed to the art and design department’s student work. Students’ artwork can be found at student shows and on the art and design department’s website under “student work.”