"If you let them experience it, they will come" has proven a successful philosophy for the SFA School of Art, especially in relation to Art Day, a major recruiting effort held each November. For an entire day, the school hosts approximately 200 high school art students, offering them a virtual experience as a college art student.
The participants, hand-selected by their high school art teachers, spend the morning in one of 12 studio art classes: advertising design, cinematography, ceramics, digital media, drawing, metals, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, art education and advanced figure drawing.
"These college art classes are quite different than those at their high schools," said Chris Talbot, director of the School of Art. "Because each class lasts three hours, students can actually complete a project. Plus, they have meaningful interactions with our instructors and the student assistants."
Ashley Martin, a 2010 participant from Cypress Ranch High School, said her cinematography group created and produced a short film they shot on campus.
"I enjoyed experiencing a different medium of art than I was used to," she said. "In high school, I only focused on photography, so it was interesting to work in another art form."
After lunch, students are free to visit any of the other studios. While they don't have time to complete an additional project, they still can get some hands-on experiences in the different areas and/or talk with the instructors and students from that program, Talbot explained.
Amanda Clements, the only art teacher in the Chapel Hill ISD near Mount Pleasant, likes the exposure Art Day provides for her students.
"I'm limited in what I can provide, and Art Day introduces my students to different areas and facilities and different teaching methods," Clements continued. "The experience creates a spark and excitement about trying new things."
Martin, who is now pursuing an art education degree, said Art Day strongly influenced her decision to attend SFA.
"It showed me what the art programs were like at SFA and how interesting it would be to learn there. Because of my experience at Art Day, I felt comfortable attending SFA and knowing I would learn multiple ways to create art."
Dr. Buddy Himes, dean of the College of Fine Arts, explained that Art Day gives valuable information to the approximately 40 attending art teachers. "They get to know and trust our programs and, in turn, encourage their students to attend SFA."
The participating high school educators also receive professional enrichment. Dr. Marsha Blount, assistant professor of art and current director of Art Day, conducts a workshop for which continuing education credits can be earned.
"It was through Art Day surveys that we learned many of the teachers wanted to further their art education," Blount explained. "So, in 2009, we began offering courses toward a Master of Arts in art education."
The master's program, designed to be completed in three summers with the options of taking some courses online and transferring up to 12 hours from another institution, is designed for working teachers' schedules.
Cuauhtemoc Murphy, art teacher at Bay City High School, began working on his M.A.A.E. this summer. He learned about the opportunity when he attended Art Day in 2010, and he was so impressed with what he saw that he decided to pursue his graduate work at SFA.
"I could go to school in Houston - it's much closer - but I really like the facilities and people at SFA," Murphy said.
"Art Day is a great recruiting tool," said Himes. "We've found that whether prospective students are 18, 22 or 55, if they have a chance to interact directly with the faculty and experience our programs firsthand, they're much more likely to enroll at SFA. Participation is the key."
Registrations already are being accepted for the 2012 Art Day, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 2. Interested teachers can visit www.art.sfasu.edu and search under "programs" to access more information and registration forms about Art Day and/or the M.A.A.E. degree.