Every summer, high school students spend three weeks at MCAD finding out what college life is really like.
The Pre-College Summer Session at MCAD is a three-week, residential program that allows high school students to try out their skills at a college level. Students pursue a major and receive three college credits at the program's completion.
“Being surrounded by other artists working just as hard as you provides even more of a driving force to do the best work possible. I saw a work ethic come out in myself that I didn't know I was capable of.”
What surprised you the most about the Pre-College Summer Session?
I went into it expecting to do things I'd never tried before, and to use methods and materials I'd never been exposed to. But I wasn't expecting to be pushed so far artistically and to grow so much in such a short period of time. From the first day of my comic class, I knew that I was going to be taken out of my comfort zone in the best way possible. It genuinely is an amazing learning environment, because there is no room for work that isn't your best. I was also pleasantly surprised by the people—not just the other students but also the teaching assistants, resident advisors, and instructors were all the types of individuals that I want to be surrounded by.
Panteha in the comic art studio; photo by Forrest Wasko
What aspect of the program has had the biggest impact on you?
Every single day of comic class I left knowing something new about the craft of creating comics or about my own artistic process. Truly, being in that classroom environment was the most impactful part of the program. The first week was more lecture-based, which was when I learned what felt like a whole semester's worth of knowledge about my major. From the smallest things, like how comic artists rule out their pages and precisely measure out their lettering, to big things like the dynamic relationship between negative space, dialogue, foreground, and panel configuration. But the latter half of the program was when I got the most out of the class, with small, group critiques, followed by one-on-one meetings with the instructor. Being able to work intensely on my final assignments with the help of my instructor and the TAs accelerated my growth throughout the program immensely. Without that class studio time, I likely wouldn't have had the confidence to push myself to take on more ambitious concepts and ideas, and I wouldn't have been able to execute it nearly as well without the ability to constantly call on the TAs to discuss the smallest of details that made the biggest of differences.
How has your artistic practice changed since the program?
The comic art major is hard. I'll say that right away. I had to quickly adapt to working faster than I'd ever worked before, but also push myself to maintain my high standards and quality. It's difficult working hours on a piece, and coming to feel like you have to choose between having it turn out how you envision or finishing it in time. Being surrounded by other artists working themselves just as hard as you provides even more of a driving force to do the best work possible. I saw a work ethic come out in myself that I didn't know I was capable of. I was able to dedicate and lose myself for hours in my work, and in turn would see not only the product as an illustrative success, but also as a physical embodiment of my hard efforts.
Leaving the program at the end was so incredibly hard, because I didn't realize how quickly I'd started loving and craving the hard work (and the artistic outcomes) until it was time to go home. But not only did my time management and ethic improve, my art itself developed and flourished so drastically that it's clearly visible when looking at the comics I made throughout the class. The final comic I made is, without a doubt, my best piece of work to date, and it is something I look to now to remind myself what I am capable of.
Panteha was the subject of a painting major's final project; photo by Forrest Wasko
What was your favorite experience outside of the classroom?
In the rare but precious time I wasn't working, I was able to be with the other artists in the program. It's a hard thing to articulate, but the unanimous desire to create our best work, and the fact that we all held ourselves to such high standards, made it so that we all shared a sort of unspoken understanding and had an instant connection. I myself love to discuss art history and how it ties into feminism, gender, race, and sexuality, and there was no shortage of other intellectuals to talk with. Just being with other people your age who want what you want and share your love for art is an amazing feeling.
MCAD is located right next to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), and it's an inexplicably cool thing to be able to see such amazing works of art with a group of friends—fellow young artists. MCAD's art store, the Art Cellar, is an amazing little gem tucked away in the Morrison Building that I must have visited at least a dozen times. Every art student and artist can attest that being able to see and buy new art materials is always one of the most exciting and inspiring things. Having such close and easy access to all the materials and more that I needed to complete my assignments the way that I envisioned them only made the program and the experience that much better.
Panteha and fellow comic art students talking comics on the MCAD patio; photo by Forrest Wasko
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about attending the Pre-College Summer Session?
My advice is to come! Prepare to be pushed to your limits and to work hard, though. The program truly is a college experience. You're not treated like a child or babied, like is sometimes the case in high school. The independence when it comes to your time management and assignment completion is invigorating and freeing artistically, but it also means that you have to be on top of everything yourself.
For me, it was a wholly positive experience and I urge anyone who is considering the program to do it. MCAD is a small school in size, but the amount of great work being produced here, and the amount of artistic resources and technology to make that work possible make it the ideal place. If you're considering art school you should definitely attend, because it will leave you certain whether or not you're ready or willing to take on the challenge. I knew people that left the program feeling art school wasn't for them, and there were others like myself who left unable to wait until they could start their freshman year. Either way, everyone grows at the Pre-College Summer Session, everyone learns. Everyone discovers something new about themselves artistically and leaves with pieces that will undoubtedly strengthen their portfolios.
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