Pasadena Art Institutes: School Overviews and Degree Program Info

There are more than 30 schools within 30 miles of Pasadena that have art degree programs. Read an overview of three schools' programs, requirements and admission info and find out which school is the right one for you.

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Schools with Art Programs in Pasadena

There are many schools in the Pasadena area that offer art programs. This article looks at three diverse institutions within a 40-minute drive of the city center and at the various programs they offer. There is also a table of statistics about each school, such as enrollment, tuition, percentage of applicants who are accepted and the percentage of students who graduate on time. At the end of the article is a little information about a few other area schools with relevant programs.

  • Just four miles from the heart of downtown, Art Center College of Design, offers bachelor's and master's degrees in art and a bachelor's degree in illustration.
  • The University of Southern California (USC), 14 miles from downtown, offers bachelor's and master's degree programs in art and has many options for minors, including drawing, painting, sculpture and 3-D art for games.
  • Otis College of Art and Design is about 30 miles from downtown. It offers bachelor's degree programs in painting, photography and sculpture/new genres as well as a master's program in art.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Art
  • Art History
  • Arts Management
  • Ceramics
  • Drawing
  • Metal and Jewelry Art
  • Multimedia Arts
  • Painting
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture
  • Weaving and Textile Arts

Comparison of Schools

There are many factors to consider when choosing a school. The following table presents information that can help a prospective student make the best decision.

Art Center College of Design University of Southern California Otis College of Art and Design
School Type 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, private not-for-profit
Total Enrollment (2017) 2,251 (2,005 undergraduate)* 45,687 (19,170 undergraduate)* 1,115 (1,062 undergraduate)*
Campus Setting Midsize city Large city Large city
Tuition & Fees (undergraduate, 2017-2018) $42,008* $54,259* $45,620*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2016-2017) 60%* 64%* 90%*
Undergraduate Acceptance Rate (2017) 70%* 16%* 91%*
Retention Rate (2016-2017) 80% full-time students* 96%* 80%*
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (for students who began in 2011) 68%* 92%* 55%*

Source: *NCES College Navigator.

Art Center College of Design

Small classes taught by working professionals help cultivate student artists within the 11 undergraduate and seven graduate-level programs. The school has a focus on socially responsible design. Students begin major courses as soon as they begin their studies; programs are characterized by numerous intensive major classes.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fine Art

Applicants must present a portfolio of work in any media, with an emphasis on personal and experimental work; those seeking to pursue the painting and illustration track should include samples of live-model drawing. The program has core classes in multiple mediums and includes coursework in installation concepts and professional practices. Ultimately, students pick a single medium in which to develop art for their senior project, and present their work in solo and group exhibitions. A total of 120 units are required for graduation.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration

Applicants must submit a portfolio of 10 to 15 pieces that includes a variety of live-model drawings and observational sketches such as portraits or everyday scenes; students should be able to demonstrate drawing and painting skills, imaginative skills and the progression of story or idea. After a series of foundation courses, including the history of art and pop culture, as well as technical classes in drawing and painting, students can specialize in illustration design, illustration for motion, illustration/fine art, entertainment arts or surface design.

Master of Fine Arts in Art

The 5-term program is open to applicants working in any genre, and admission requires a portfolio with 15 to 20 samples of current work. Audio-visual pieces may be submitted on DVD, while web-based submission of portfolio images is accepted as well. The interdisciplinary program prepares artists working in any medium to become a part of the contemporary art culture. Students work individually with instructors and also participate in group courses in theory and critique. A total of 66 units are required. Students must mount an exhibit and defend their work and present a written thesis during the final term.

University of Southern California (USC)

Southern California's oldest art school, USC's Roski School of Fine Arts, treats equally the creation and the critical study of visual art. With an interdisciplinary approach, the school offers students studio courses in a wide range of art specialties, including ceramics, design, digital media, painting and drawing, photography, printmaking and sculpture. Students applying to the bachelor's or master's degree programs must prepare a portfolio; applicants to the minor art programs do not need to complete a portfolio.

Bachelor of Arts in Art

Undergraduate applicants must include a portfolio of recent artwork representing their best skills while showing their developing point of view. This flexible 128-unit program confers a liberal arts degree; the curriculum includes general education courses and a foreign language requirement. Art history, theory and criticism courses are also required. Students are free to try working with different mediums or choose to focus on one for their studio work. The program can be combined with a second major or minor in another field.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fine Art

Applicants to this professional degree program must provide a portfolio of images created within the past two years that showcase their skills and the development of important concepts or ideas within their work. Drawing, sculpture and design studio courses are required for foundational knowledge of the field; an art history class is also required. No foreign language or math classes are required during this 128-unit program, so that students may spend more time devoted to studio work. Some general education and elective courses are required. Critical studies courses in history and theory round out the curriculum.

Minor in Digital Studio

With a focus on art created through new technologies, students in this 24-unit program take courses in visual culture and digital photography along with a selection of upper division courses like photography, animation, digital video or digital photography work. Courses may also include the history of photography and animation.

Minor in Drawing

Drawing, painting and printmaking courses - at beginner and advanced levels - make up the curriculum of this 20-unit minor. Students cultivate the hands-on skills necessary to carry out their creative vision through spatial rendering, composition and figure drawing.

Minor in Painting

Over the course of 24 units, students explore both Western and non-Western traditions of drawing, painting and printmaking. Early courses provide a foundation in various principles and painting techniques while advanced courses allow for more sophisticated projects.

Minor in Photography

The 24-unit photography minor offers access to both color and black and white darkrooms and also introduces various camera types and printing methods. Classes explore theory and history with regard to photography, alongside technical aspects of lighting and film technology. Both traditional and digital photography are explored.

Minor in Sculpture

The sculpture minor requires 24 units. Students may choose materials such as wood, clay, plaster, latex, fiberglass or metal. Options for hands-on learning and skill development include ceramics, wheel throwing, clay and glazes; drawing; modeling and mold-making; sculpture and construction. Students can apply this minor to related studies in architecture, urban planning, special effects and more.

Minor in 2-D Art for Games

In this 24-26 unit interdisciplinary minor, students incorporate computer science, fine arts and interactive media to develop hand drawing and painting skills, computer drawing animation, and illustration skills and game development skills.

Minor in 3-D Art for Games

Students who earn this minor take classes in sculpture, 3-D modeling, animation and game development. This is a multidisciplinary area of study that includes fine arts, computer science, information technology and interactive media classes. This minor requires an end-of-semester game demo presentation.

Minor in Communication Design

With an intersection of art and business, students master digital imaging and graphic design skills as they relate to business operations. Areas of study in addition to art may include marketing, visual communication, advertising and promotions.

Minor in Two Dimensional Studies

Focusing on sharpening the student's skills in drawing, color and composition, this 24-unit program is ideal for students interested in animation or digital visual communication. The program covers a wide range of media studies, including drawing, painting and digital photography. Also available are courses in visual culture, design and printmaking.

Master of Fine Arts in Fine Art

The 52-unit program focuses on the theory, criticism and creation of art and is appropriate for students interested in careers as professional artists. The program requires a thesis project consisting of an oral defense of a solo exhibition and a written thesis. This studio-oriented program is highly competitive. Students may also benefit from a weekly visiting lecture series featuring working professional artists, art curators and art critics.

Otis College of Art and Design

There are 404 practicing professionals among the faculty at the school, including art instructors who exhibit internationally. All undergraduate students are required to begin with a foundation year that prepares them with a base of skills before focusing on their major; foundation classes include drawing, composition and liberal arts courses. The emphasis within the fine arts department is on making art.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting

Submission of a portfolio with up to 20 recent pieces is required for application to the program. The program begins with general education and cross-medium studies during the foundation year. In the second year, students split into one of the specialized tracks. Students in this program receive a studio space in which to create, specifically during the creation of senior studio projects. The program culminates with an exhibition.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography

Applicants must submit a portfolio with up to 20 examples of work, which may include video excerpts up to two minutes in length. The first year requires the foundation courses in drawing and design, along with liberal arts and sciences classes, that photography students take with the other BFA students. The focus then shifts to photography during the second year and beyond, while still maintaining the school's interdisciplinary approach. The third and fourth years are progressively more studio-centered, with the fourth year more focused on the senior art exhibition and thesis project.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture/New Genres

Applications require a portfolio of artwork, including up to 20 selections of recent material. After their foundation year, focused on liberal arts and sciences classes and an interdisciplinary mix of art skills, students are introduced to more detailed and demanding course options in their area of study. The senior year course load concentrates on thesis work and creating a cohesive body of work for the student exhibition.

Master of Fine Arts in Art

There is a portfolio requirement for the application, including 15-20 images. This program is designed for students who want to develop their personal vision over the course of two years of study. Students complete a total of 60 units, including a combination of critical theory and art history courses alongside the intensive studio and art creation work done in preparation for the thesis project and final exhibition. Courses also cover the practicalities of choosing a career as an artist, such as exhibition planning and design.

Other School Options

An Associate in Arts degree in Visual Arts is available from Citrus College, 17 miles to the east in Glendora. Located about 18 miles south of Pasadena, the 2-year public school Rio Hondo College has associate degree programs in studio art and art, animation and photography. Los Angeles ORT College is about 20 miles west of Pasadena, in Los Angeles, and it offers an associate degree in digital media.

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