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GOCC to offer three new visual art associate degree programs


Students attending Glen Oaks Community College (GOCC) now have the option of studying a new associate degree program that will offer three different choices of emphasis in the visual arts.

Beginning with the fall 2013 semester, GOCC will offer an Associate of Arts in Visual Arts degree with emphasis in three different areas: fine art, graphic design and commercial photography.

According to Michael Northrop, GOCC professor of art, program development has been in the works for some time.

“We put together a team of design professionals, local business representatives, faculty and students from GOCC,” Northrop said. “Over the past two years, we held a series of meetings to discuss different art program possibilities and we began to identify different needs in the visual arts.”

Northrop says the team researched the demand for visual art programs, while taking into consideration programs offered through other schools, the strengths of the existing fine arts program and the space requirements that would be necessary to start the program.

“In particular, the St. Joseph County Intermediate School District had a tremendous amount of interest in the graphic design program, and was interested in teaming up with us to be able to offer it through Career and Technical Education (CTE) offerings,” Northrop stated.

“CTE in St. Joseph County is always working to meet the needs of the students in our local districts,” said Ginny Kowalski, director of CTE for the St. Joseph County Intermediate School District.

“In the past few years, students have requested a CTE program where they can utilize their art skills and explore careers related to art,” said Kowalski. “The graphic design program explores art, design and color through MAC computers utilizing such software as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Flash. I believe the students will love this program and it will spark their interest in pursuing the Associate of Arts in Visual Arts.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook handbook, the job outlook is good for students graduating with baccalaureate degrees in the visual arts.  “Most of the jobs will require a four-year degree, with the exception of commercial photography,” Northrop noted, adding that commercial photographers are in demand and students can pretty much start working as freelance photographers right out of the associate’s program.

“With so many products and services offered online, there is an increased need for commercial photography,” said Northrop. “As part of the commercial photography program, we wanted to be able to teach darkroom techniques, while at the same time, offer digital imaging coursework.”

Northrop added that Robert Bartholomew, GOCC’s part-time art professor, recently discovered a way to create negatives from digital camera files using PhotoShop. As a result of this technique, students are not required to purchase a film-fed camera for the course.

The curriculum for the new Visual Arts programs offers students everything from the general studies areas including the science and math requirements for other associate programs. The programs are fully transferable into baccalaureate programs.

Northrop said the new offering will require increased space to accommodate studios and an Apple-based computer lab. The college is currently evaluating the possibilities to house the new art and design program.

The college is also in the process of hiring a new faculty member to teach visual arts classes.

“Often, art classes have an appeal to the general community,” said Northrop, who expects there will be a number of students who will enroll in the visual arts courses for personal pleasure.