The University of the Arts overhauls its curriculum

The art of teaching the arts has undergone a transformation at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

The university this school year overhauled the way it delivers instruction, offering a more multi-disciplinary approach that prepares students for artistic jobs in today’s economy, said President Sean T. Buffington. The university combined two colleges - Art & Design and Media & Communications - into the College of Art, Media and Design.

“We had a curriculum structured for a creative economy that doesn’t exist anymore,” said Buffington, who has been at the helm for six years. “Jobs are really different than they used to be. Professions have changed radically...What a graphic designer did 30 years ago is different from today. Now, they’re thinking more about multi-platform branding, social media... - it’s become very, very different.”

About 75 percent of the instruction has been altered, he said. The changes followed meetings with staff to develop a new vision.

Students notice the changes from their first year. As freshmen, they take a core studies program that gives them more ability to chart their own path rather than follow a largely pre-determined program, Buffington said.

Beginning next year, all students - those in performing arts and visual artists - will have a seminar on theory and practice in contemporary art making, using Philadelphia as a laboratory for the class. A new creative writing major also will be added in the fall.

The university is considering changes to its performing arts curriculum as well, Buffington said.