The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Mastering the Arts

Students and faculty discuss the process of applying to college for art and its relationship with students’ academic life.

As the clock ticked down to 1:00 p.m., Edie Cohen ’24 could not pay attention to writing her in-class English essay. When she refreshed her inbox after the essay and saw an email from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) , she could not steady her hands as she went to go click on it. After she saw the confetti appear on the screen indicating that she had been accepted, Cohen was ecstatic and grateful that she would be able to go to her dream school next year.. Like many of her classmates, Cohen had worked tirelessly on her application, but while most of her peers only wrote essays, Cohen also had to craft a portfolio of her art.Cohen said the decision to apply to college for art came easily to her because she knew being surrounded by other artists will allow her work to develop.

“I am honestly so inspired by art and all different kinds of art and feel a huge sense of excitement when I am surrounded by other creators,” Cohen said. “Being at Harvard-Westlake, I have been able to appreciate both artists and non-artists, but I realized for my next step I want to be fully surrounded by creative individuals, as well as focus fully on my own artwork. Being surrounded by other artists allows me to feel comfortable expressing myself, whether it be my identity or creativity.”

Upper School Dean Sharon Cuseo said the process of applying to school for art requires strategy and time.

“First of all, applicants need to decide if they want to apply to an art school, where everyone there is majoring in some aspect of the visual arts, or if they are applying as an art major to a college or university that offers more than just art,” Cuseo said. “They could [also] be applying to an art school within a liberal arts and sciences college.”

Cuseo said once this decision has been made, the application process differs from school to school.

“Then [students] need to figure out what the portfolio options/requirements are for their program,” Cuseo said.”Some schools, like Stanford, require all of the applicants who will be submitting portfolios to do so two weeks ahead of the regular application deadline. Most of the time they are using a site called ‘SlideRoom’ for submitting their portfolios. If a school doesn’t have a formal portfolio submission process, then students can create their own website to display their art or just provide links to images of their art as part of the normal Common Application activities grid.”

Upper School Art Teacher GustavoGodoy said he works with his students to ensure that their pieces of have a clear narrative to help strengthen the students’ portfolios.

“I spend a lot of time helping students build a narrative around the work they have created at Harvard-Westlake,” Gustavo Godoy said. “I help them think about what skills and concepts they should showcase in the group of 12 to 20 images that go into the portfolio. The portfolio is a snapshot of your art experience in high school and can show how you connect personal interests, issues from history, social concerns or your imaginative wanderings to an aesthetic expression. I also can help students choose schools that feel appropriate to the kind of rigor and type of work they hope to make in college. All of the faculty members of our art department are artists who went to art school, and we have a lot of experiences to share.”

Elise Fried ’24 is a member of the school’s Performing Arts Department, but decided not to apply to college for art. Fried said her decision was greatly influenced by the fact that pursuing a degree in theater is very academically limiting.

“I decided not to apply to college as solely a theater major because I knew going into the process that I still wanted to be able to pursue other academic interests and don’t intend to pursue theater professionally,” Fried said. “After spending seven weeks in an intense 24/7 theater camp, I realized that I can’t just take performance-centered classes all the time. Discussing theater was too abstract for me, and I missed learning equations and computable problems.”

Colleges often require students to come to he school and perform in-person auditions for theater. Fried said this process is very intense and intimidating, which ultimately influenced her decision to not apply for art .

“At a lot of schools, pursuing theater is [through]the Bachelor of the Fine Arts (BFA) route, where it is nearly impossible to even take academic classes due to your theatrical workload,” Fried said. “For these BFA programs, you often have to apply and audition. I was terrified to do that. I don’t want people judging what I create on a passorfail basis, [and] choosing whether I move on to the next round or not. I only indicated theater as a potential major at schools where that wouldn’t necessitate an audition.”

Despite the hard work, Fried said she enjoyed making her audition tapes and is happy that she will be able to pursue all of her interests in college.

“Although it was a daunting task, I do love performing and enjoyed making my self tapes, and I am quite glad that I get to look back on the process proud,” Fried said. “It was a tough process to find ways to incorporate theater with environmental engineering or dramatic literature, which were two majors I applied for at different schools. It was worth it because now I don’t have to pick between my interests for college.”

Cohen said her art mainly involves oil painting and filmmaking, which her parents encouraged her to pursue in college and beyond.

“I specialize in oil painting and filmmaking,” Cohen said. “I have always gravitated towards making art using my hands. I love the process of oil painting, as there are multiple steps and each one feels impactful. In terms of filmmaking, I have grown up in a movie loving family, and they were in total agreement of me applying to RISD, which I am very lucky for.”

Diego Godoy ’24 will be majoring in Studio Arts at Tufts University next fall, and said that while he does not specialize in a single medium, his art has inspired him and led him to explore the world and himself.

“I don’t have a specific type of art that I specialize at this point besides it being 3D art,” Diego Godoy said. “My art at this point has consisted of ceramics, wood work and welding. My most recent pieces have been influenced by my Mexican heritage and have been a way for me to explore and learn more about my family’s origin which started with a research trip I did over the summer to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The trip gave me a wealth of information about my culture and so I’ve been building off that trip and making art relating to some of the things I observed. Harvard-Westlake has allowed me with its many resources to further my study, and I’m excited to continue my studies in college.”

DiegoGodoy said his passion for art grew out of his father’s love for it and his interest in helping him .

“Art has always been something that I have been passionate about since I was a kid,” Diego Godoy said. “With my dad also being an artist, I’ve been lucky enough to have been introduced into the art world early on and have seen many different mediums that artists use. This led me to want to learn art making as a kid, so I could help my father with his art and installations.”

Gustavo Godoy said it is important for parents of students who are thinking about applying to college for art to be supportive and help their children learn about their prospective colleges.

“The important part for parents is to help their students visit and learn about a wide range of art programs,” GustavoGodoy said. “Seeing a school in person gives a student the opportunity to picture themselves living and working in that environment. Art is often not the most supported career path for the type of students that go to Harvard-Westlake, but being an artist myself, I know the importance of creativity and the contributions to culture that artists can make. Much of the college process is the same as for every other student.”

DiegoGodoy said that while the majority of people at the school don’t mainly focus on art, he feels he has gained a new perspective on the school and has never felt isolated by his peers.

“It can feel a little weird to be an art student at Harvard- Westlake,” Diego Godoy said. “I also feel that it provides me with a different perspective on the school that other kids don’t get to experience. I have found that while being someone who specializes in art might be a less common thing at our school, the other students have never once made me feel like an outsider for that decision. Even though Harvard- Westlake is a very academic school, I believe that the students also pride themselves in taking the time to learn and appreciate other fields such as art.”

Similarly, Cohen said being an art-focused student atthe school has been challenging at times, but her teachers have all been very supportive and have helped her grow as both a person and an artist.

“I have always felt a bit out of place at school because it is a rigorous environment with extremely academically driven people,” Cohen said. “But, because of the welcoming and warm faculty, I have been able to tap into my sense of self without feeling insecure. I have been able to take a variety of art classes, which I am really grateful for. I also have realized how important the other classes that are offered at school have been to my growth as a person. For example, because of the incredible teachers that I have had, my interests have grown in a wide variety, besides just art. I am fascinated with psychology and English, and because I have been able to take those courses, I am able to use what I’ve learned in those classes to adapt my artwork and think of new ideas.”

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