BACK TO SCHOOL: Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts

ASMSA students learn woodworking skills in Modern Craft and Design, one of the courses offered in the Visual Arts and Design Program of Distinction. - Submitted photo
ASMSA students learn woodworking skills in Modern Craft and Design, one of the courses offered in the Visual Arts and Design Program of Distinction. - Submitted photo

The Visual Arts and Design Program of Distinction offers students at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts an arts curriculum that develops their artistic talents and creativity while creating a talent pipeline that builds on recent private investments in arts education at colleges and universities throughout Arkansas.

The Visual Arts and Design program provides students with opportunities to take immersive, college-level courses in 2D, 3D and other traditional visual arts topics as well as graphic design and digital photography. Courses such as Modern Design and Craft, Ceramics, Digital Art and Graphic Design expand ASMSA's art offerings beyond traditional painting and drawing classes.

The P.O.D.'s curriculum includes eight courses called the Foundations of Visual Arts Sequence that align with most undergraduate majors and minors in visual art. It allows students with a deep passion for visual arts sufficient time to explore fundamental principles while also focusing on building a portfolio that reflects their own personal interests. The courses culminate in a Senior Studio course that focuses on portfolio building, art as a profession, personal branding, college planning and submitting to various competitions.

The Visual Arts and Design P.O.D. is the most recent effort by ASMSA to expand its investment in the arts, which was made part of the school's legislated mission in 2004. That change was adopted 18 years ago on July 1, meaning the arts has been part of ASMSA's name and core mission longer than the original Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences moniker chosen when the school was created in 1991.

Over the past decade, ASMSA has used institutional funds as well as private gifts to increase the standing of the arts program at the school. Three full-time art instructors have been added to the faculty, new courses were introduced and new equipment has been purchased.

Those investments have resulted in not only a more dynamic curriculum but also in students' abilities and recognition as well. As students are introduced to an increased number of art techniques and styles, they are using them to create award-worthy pieces. Students have earned recognition in the Thea Foundation Scholarship Competition, the Governor's Young Artist Competition, the Arkansas Young Artists Association Competition and the Congressional Arts Competition among others.

The P.O.D. also strengthens the school's bonds with Hot Springs' vibrant local arts community. Additional collaboration with the Hot Springs Cultural Alliance, Arts in the Park and individual artists present students the chance to better engage with local artists and build relationships with community advocates. Student have participated in art projects sponsored by the city, including mural paintings at area recreation facilities.

Students who choose the participate in the Visual Arts and Design P.O.D. also complete a Concurrent Core that ensures all students graduate from the school with at least 30 hours (one year) of college credit. Recent graduates have averaged nearly 50 hours over their four semesters of study at ASMSA.