Why Have an Artsy Major at UC Santa Barbara?


Samantha McMullen
Arts and Review Editor

Art is everywhere at UC Santa Barbara. There’s a newspaper-covered chair by the University Center and a rock labyrinth on Campus Point. Posters are all around campus advertising art shows, dance shows, theater performances and music concerts. Even on Sundays, the arts are alive as musicians play the bells in Storke Tower.  

All this beauty makes me wonder why these students are studying here instead of a specialty art school.

I am a Psychology major attempting to double major in Art because the Masters program I want to follow in graduate school requires both.

According to Trela Cowan, the UCSB undergraduate advisor for the Art Department, about 50 percent of Art students come to UCSB enrolled in the major or pre-major, and the rest switch to Art at some time in their academic career.  

Ashley Fong, a second-year Art major, said she came to UCSB mainly because her parents wanted her to.  She recently changed from a Computer Science major to an Art major.

“I changed because I wanted to go into computer graphics, and this was as close as I could get. I want to be a website designer or photographer or graphic artist or logo designer,” she said.

On the other hand, first-year student Oxana Ermolova came to UCSB already enrolled in the Dance major.

“I really enjoy and appreciate this dance program. It provides superb training in ballet and modern technique, with an emphasis on modern movement in performance,” she said.

Ermolova also commented how personal the dance department is at UCSB.

“There are about fifteen freshman dance majors, so we definitely get to know the faculty quite well and the department overall provides a very supportive, nurturing environment. The faculty here encourages dancers to think and feel the movement, rather than mindlessly perform the choreography,” she said. “I find such thoughtful approach to dance both artistically and intellectually stimulating. I feel I have grown as both a dancer and a person.”

Luckily UCSB has so much diversity that students who might be encouraged to major in Biology or Computer Science can still take whatever arts classes they want and even double major or minor without too much difficulty.
But the UCSB Art department is still a little behind the times.

“It’s [the Art department] not as electronic/digital as was anticipated ten years ago. I would say that it’s still 85 percent conceptually produced ‘traditional’ mediums: painting/drawing, sculpture, photo, print/book arts.”

Most majors in the various art departments seem to agree that while specialty art schools may be more developed and established, UCSB is good enough for them.

“I realize that the art program here isn’t as good as, for example, the Art Institute [of San Francisco] would be, but I guess it is good enough,” said Hirohima.

Fong agreed with Hirohima.

“Of course art schools would be better, but we are getting a better overall education here,” she said.

Another reason many students come to UCSB to pursue their artistic endeavors is because they want to avoid the “art school hipster” environment and go to a school with a more intellectual crowd.

Other reasons include financial concerns. Most specialty arts universities are private and very expensive, and even though UCs definitely ring up a high bill, getting grants and scholarships can be easier for some students.

If you are interested in the UCSB arts programs and events, PRIMAVERA is a Festival of Contemporary Arts and Digital Media that will be going on from Thursday, March 31 to Wednesday, April 13. Visit the website http://www.ccs.ucsb.edu/primavera for the complete schedule of events.