Of all the majors at Hillsdale College, the art major may have the most unique requirements — from requiring students to create a personal portrait to having them save all their projects for a final art show in their senior year.
Senior Madie Schider, a biology and art double major, originally was going to make art her minor and biology her major, but said she decided that she loved art too much.
“I took drawing my freshman year first semester with Suarez, and it was just amazing, the best experience,” Schider said. “I just loved kind of getting lost in art. I love drawing, I love painting, so it just kind of worked.”
German and art double major senior Colm Maines agreed, saying that though art wasn’t his original plan, he “fell in love with drawing all over again” when he took Drawing I his freshman year.
“I have always loved doing art since my high school art classes, especially with graphite and colored pencil,” Maines said in an email. “About halfway through the semester, I talked to Dr. Bushey about the requirements for being an art major and realized it was more than doable. Bam, end of story.”
There are three focuses for the art department: traditional art, art history, and graphic design. The major requires at least 36 hours while the minor requires 21. There is very little reading, Schider said, and the materials that students buy are mostly art supplies. While most other majors don’t have requirements for admittance, art majors must submit a self-portrait in order to be accepted.
“One of the reasons to do it is to make sure everyone’s up to a certain level and also to keep track of it,” said art professor and chair of the art department Barbara Bushey. “We can identify needs that we have to address.”
The art department also encourages students to submit to the Fine Arts Building for a “juried student art competition” in the spring semester in which there are cash prizes.
“All students submit work,” Bushey said. “We just hang everything there and they award prizes.”
For the art capstone, art majors present their creations from the past three years in an art show, which Schider said is the art version of a thesis. She said she believes she has “improved so much” in not just her skills with mediums and techniques but also in her ability to evaluate things artistically. Schider found that her perspective of the world changed gradually as she took more classes throughout college.
“Now, because I’ve had so much experience, I can get that perfect line or that perfect shading one or two times,” Schider said. “And your eye — Suarez said you need to look at the world in a different way, and that’s true. In freshman year, you see the world like every other person, and by senior year, you’re looking at it like, ‘Oh how could I paint that or how could I draw that? What different shapes and negative areas should I incorporate to really express that gesture in a person?’”
Maines found that he improved similarly and has gained skills in mediums he didn’t have before.
“My eye for good art and, more practically, good craftsmanship has improved tremendously since I began,” Maines said. “I can find the places in my own work that are weak and use that to build up my skills. And I know how to paint (which I didn’t know how to do before), and I have learned how to put graphite and charcoal down on a page better than I could before I began.”
All the art is graded based off of improvement and effort rather than how “technically advanced” a student is. This takes practice like a sport, Schider said, who also is a student athlete on the women’s volleyball team. She added that it takes more time than one would think.
“I think people see art majors as just the easy major because we just draw and paint all day, but in reality it’s two, three hours classes in your schedule where you have to work around everything else,” she said. “That’s never really exciting.”
Though she does not plan to have a career in art, Schider said she is taking steps to pursue her dream of owning a vineyard in a forested area, thanks to her biology major’s focus on botany.
“The goal in life at the end is to be able to paint and draw all day and then have people run the vineyard for me,” Schider said. “That’s the dream.”
Maines said in the future, he intends to use art mostly as a form of creative release; however, he said there is one thing about being an art major that he would still like everyone to know: “It’s worth it.”