There’s an elephant in the room when visual and performing artists talk about their desire to go to an art school, says Sharron Sterling, Director of Admissions at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. There are “lots of naysayers for students who want to be artists,” says Sterling, who’s been at Cornish for 25 years. “What can you do with it? How can you be successful? Will you end up ‘just teaching?’”
Cornish helps artistic students find their answers to these questions, learn how the arts are relevant within a greater context and discover how they can have a career using their creativity.
Cornish was founded in 1914 on the vision that it should be a place where artists work in an immersive and cross-pollinated artistic environment. It’s one of only 3 BFA programs in the country accredited in both visual and performing arts, with a variety of music, dance, performing arts, production and visual art options available to students in the heart of Seattle, a community friendly to emerging artists.
On the performing arts side, Cornish has not only a traditional theatre major, but a performance production major, where students learn the technical and production side of stagecraft, including set design, costume, lighting, sound & stage management. About 30% of the school’s classical and jazz performance and composition majors are composers; students are usually playing local gigs by their second year, and teaching private lessons as seniors. The BFA and BM programs are about 25% academic and 75% studio work.
Acting majors are taught by local working actors and producers, and the students frequently find themselves in the fortunate position of auditioning for shows before directors who know them from Cornish. Theater students perform about 16 major shows a year, sharing the Cornish Playhouse with the Seattle Shakespeare Company; there are six other performance-ready venues.
If students graduate and decide they don’t want to practice their art, they will have spent four years building skill sets that can transfer into other areas:
- Creative problem solving
- Initiative, self-motivation
- Critical thinking skills
- Ability to work with others as well as independently
- Self-confidence and the ability to express one’s opinion
- Stamina to work long days and keep going
A new residence hall is under construction across the street from the Main Campus Center (MCC), a six-story building which houses all disciplines. The new dorm will provide housing for up to 400 students; Cornish has 800 students total. Applicants are required to submit an application, essays, a transcript and an audition or portfolio (Cornish participates in both Portfolio Days as well as the Unified Auditions). The average GPA of incoming students is about 3.2.
Evelyn visited Cornish in May, 2015; you can see her photo album here.