Cal Poly is known for a few things: its location in the Oprah-certified “happiest city in America,” its beautiful Central Coast environment and its hands-on approach to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. While many students spend long days in the lab composing theories and unraveling equations, there are plenty of students who chose cameras and sketchbooks over lab coats and Petri dishes.
Within Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts, the art and design department supports students concentrating in studio art, photography and graphic design. The Learn by Doing motto weaved into the curriculum on campus is undoubtedly practiced within the art and design department as well. Perhaps it is this take on learning that makes Cal Poly — a seemingly unconventional art school — a strong competitor in the field.
Many art and design students at Cal Poly are certain about their future in the field. So why did they choose Cal Poly over schools like Parsons or Rhode Island School of Design to pursue such a career?
For art and design sophomore Everett Fitzpatrick, academic flexibility and diversity brought him to Cal Poly.
“If I went to a strictly art intensive school, it would have worked me in that one concentration until I grew to hate it,” Fitzpatrick said. “By going to Cal Poly, I am able to expand my knowledge in other fields and still have a curiosity to pursue my dream outside of the classroom … With the outside knowledge I have gained at Cal Poly and the social interactions of working with people from majors other than art, I have developed a better understanding of who I am and thus have gained what I came to college for.”
Fitzpatrick is moving to New York City at the end of the school year to take on a photography internship.
While the number of art and design students at Cal Poly may be low, they continuously leave their mark on campus through exhibitions and projects. However, art and design freshman Madelyn LaBarbera feels her work doesn’t always receive the credit it should outside of the art community.
“I feel like the department doesn’t necessarily get the attention it always deserves compared to some other majors like engineering or business, but it’s just as important and has its own home here at Cal Poly,” LaBarbera said. “A lot of my peers and I worked really hard on work we were passionate about for our portfolio so we could get in here and I think people tend to assume we are less intelligent because we are in the arts. The program had a 13 percent acceptance rate this year and everyone worked really hard to make it.”
Despite some stereotypes surrounding the department, the passion of the faculty and students made pursuing a career in art a no-brainer for students like art and design freshman McKenna Krogius.
“One cool thing I immediately noticed about the art kids here is that everyone is an individual,” Krogius said. “Everyone knows exactly what they want to do, but they are also so open to new ideas and thoughts.”
Krogius said learning about branding and aesthetic design has sparked big goals for her.
“My ultimate goal would be to become a creative director for a big firm,” Krogius said. “I know I can use my skills that I have learned here so far at Cal Poly to achieve this. It is hard to get rid of the mindset that you cannot achieve anything with an arts major but then once you do, you realize how many amazing opportunities there are for you.”