The Ringling College of Art and Design
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The Ringling College of Art and Design - Comments and Student Experiences |
Let's start with the good- faculty here is AMAZING. Even in your first semester as a freshman, your professors will be industry professionals who are for the most part overwhelmingly kind, helpful, and excited about teaching. Since class sizes are so small (anywhere from 10-20 students in a studio), you'll form a solid personal relationship with all of your professors. It's important to keep in mind that you get out of a class exactly what you put in- if you slack off on your assignments or are disrespectful, you're not going to get any respect or extra help from your professors. (Since it is such a small school, the professors gossip a TON- one incident can give an entire department the wrong impression about you in a flash.)
Also fantastic is the caliber of guest speakers that come visit campus. Actors like Elijah Wood, Aubrey Plaza, and Justin Long have come to visit and work with the Digital Film students. Glenn Vilppu comes to work with the freshmen every year. The Digital Painting Sketch Club pulls in some incredible demo artists, from Bobby Chiu to Aaron Blaise. There's no shortage of talent among upperclassmen, either, and most are eager to meet with underclassmen and talk about their artwork.
In terms of coursework, it can be very frustrating (especially in the first year) how slow the pace is. Ringling's first year curriculum very much focuses on the absolute basics- composition, design, basic techniques. It's a very solid foundation, but it can be infuriating watching your peers at CalArts complete full animated films while you're still working on a ball bounce. However, nothing feels like busywork. Most professors are very good about explaining the teaching points behind each assignment so you know exactly what you're working to improve.
I would not recommend coming to Ringling if you are not absolutely sure of your choice in major. It is very difficult to switch majors, and most students who do will spend an extra year (and $40,000) at the school.
Ringling definitely throws most of their support behind the Media Arts (Illustration, Computer Animation and Game Art), Digital Film, and Motion Design. Most of the focus on campus goes towards promoting these five majors. Not that the other majors aren't worthwhile (for instance, Interior Design flies way under the radar but has won a ton of national awards), but you can certainly find a comparable degree at other colleges for far less money. Business of Art and Design is also a great program and has produced some graduates who go on to incredible jobs immediately after graduating.
One thing that I was startled by were the senior thesis shows at the end of the year. Although there were a few great projects, many were unexceptional- and a few were downright bad. Ringling does a great job promoting their successful students, and has proven to be even better at hiding their mediocre ones.
Activities outside of coursework are lacking, to say the least. The exceptions are a few excellent art-focused clubs (like DPSC and FEWS). Sarasota has zero nightlife, and parties around campus are rare. I cannot stress enough that if you want a traditional college experience with lots of parties and alcohol this is absolutely not the school for you! Sarasota is a charming city, but not very accessible to students without a car.
The area directly surrounding campus is not particularly savory. I have never felt unsafe on campus, but even visiting the gas station across the street can prove to be a harrowing experience. Car accidents are common, so be aware when walking or biking around and always take a friend with you.
In summary, Ringling is definitely not for everyone. I would explore other options if you enjoy having lots of free time, are unsure that you are not 100% committed to your major, or want a more traditional college experience. If you are passionate about your major, have a strong work ethic, and are prepared to be totally committed to art, this is the school for you!
Since my attendance, I hear the campus has grown as well as the programs offered so my experience is based on the school during the early to mid 90s, just for reference. I attended for 4 years and lived in the dorms the first year. As a slightly older student it was a challenge to relate to many of the other students who were straight out of high school but the educational environment of the smaller campus really suited me.
I did not get any financial aid so my education was almost completely financed. In hindsight, I wish I had known the impact this would have on my future at that time before having moved from New England. The financial aid officer, during my second year, informed me that I had no business going there since I (nor my family) could afford the education offered at Ringling.
The workload was heavy. I worked 2, sometimes 3 jobs during school so it was a great deal to juggle to keep lights on and rent paid all while trying to keep up with computer labs and studio classes. The good thing about that was that it provided a fierce work ethic and that is something that you can't buy. I also liked that they seemed to gear all of the general education/liberal arts courses to art in some way which kept them interesting. Having attended a state college previously I can tell you that some of those classes are really tough to get through when they are so dry and boring!A few teachers were extremely difficult and not in the sense that they were challenging with their coursework but they could be condescending and rude. I had one "professor" inform me that I had no business being there (basically because I shouldn't be an artist).
Many people are bitter that Ringling does not wipe their butt for them. No; no art school will TEACH you to draw. You are expected to already be an artist in some way shape or form and you are here to improve. The Figure Drawing classes will make your work improve greatly by the time your done, I promise, but it doesn't TEACH you how to draw. You learn to draw through practice. If you're completely honest to yourself and say you are good enough to make art your career within four years of improvement in your field, then come to an art school. It is that simple.
It doesn't mean you have to be a master when you get here, it means you have to be able to have work that is already very good. If you are not passionate about art enough to be at least decent at it do not go to an art school. There are people in my major who graduated and I honestly wasn't very impressed with their work, so if you fail the first year here you are either lazy or not talented in art. It is not possible to shove enough art knowledge into your face within the first semester to make you a master at art. Art is complex. It takes years to improve greatly, not days. So think again if your plan is to start learning to draw when you get here.
Also, I genuinely feel safe on campus day and night. I know that there are some rougher areas nearby but honestly that area and the campus are like day & night. They are completely different from one another and certainly things DO happen, but if I were to make the decision to come here again I would not be deterred by the 1 or 2 petty crimes that have occurred during the entirety of the year. Honestly people are highly over-exaggerating, and I would too if I lost 50k because I thought art school was going to be easy.
The food on the other hand... I'll have to agree with that one. Brickman has some really good food but they only give you just enough. Hammonds has great breakfast but oftentimes their dinner selection is disappointing at best. Lunch is great because you can order a pressed sandwich which is always good and fresh. If they opened the deli for both lunch and dinner I would be impressed. Overall when you have the choice just don't sign up for the meal plan. If you have a car there's a Costco not too far from the school where you can buy food in bulk for cheap. Walmart is within walking distance as well but yes, it does close at 10pm.
As far as the teachers go I haven't been dissatisfied with a single one. I absolutely adored most of them actually. Art teachers are some of the most interesting and kindest of individuals. I've been thoroughly impressed by their experience and their passion for the courses. I was so happy with them and I've improved miles due to their positive critique. In my opinion, some of the bitter reviews are from those who cannot handle critique. Critiques are solely for the purpose of your improvement and you can't improve without an insult to your art here and there. It really isn't an insult actually, it's professional help and it's not personal at all. People take it personally when asked to improve something in there art. Yet, how does one expect to improve if they can't see their own errors? It is a huge part of getting better and some people aren't strong-willed enough to handle it.
As far as students, it's a mixed bunch. Just like life. If you are prepared to deal with people in the real world just like you will have to in the future (in a professional setting), you'll be fine. Yes there are a few oddballs but nothing that bad and in my opinion there aren't that many. Just don't be judgmental and befriend people regardless. Try your best not to get into disputes with people. The school is small so if someone is wise enough to tell Residence Life they could threaten your status at the school very easily. This includes drug/alcohol abuse. If you're caught by a student you may very well be caught by the school as well and there are consequences.
Also, if possible TAKE YOUR CAR. Having a car makes free time more fun and you can even drive 5 minutes to the beach just because you feel like it. It also makes you more approachable and more fun as a friend when you can offer rides to those who need it. People here are typically kind enough to pay you back in some form and it's all around just great to have a car even if you're a "loner". There is so much to do in Sarasota and the surrounding area is absolutely gorgeous. Art festivals occur here every weekend and you're right next to an aquarium, a beach, a marina, a city, a small zoo, a beautiful bridge to run on, and Puppytown (a pet store where you can pet all of the puppies). The list goes on and on. So to those who complain there's nothing to do, I don't know what else you could ask for. Make friends and/or bring a car.
Overall, if you believe that your art skills are good enough to make you a professional within just four years of improvement, go to an art school. If you want to live in a vacation spot while you're at it and want excellent teachers who have worked at Disney etc., choose Ringling.
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