6 Innovative Summer Visual Arts Programs for High School Students

When considering a pre-college visual arts program, cost, college credit options, location, and housing are important line items. But think about the venue, too. Museums, for example, give you direct access to the history of art, while a college or university program lets you flex your academic muscle. A rural location is more likely to get you up-close and personal with nature, while a spot in the big city drops you in the middle of the urban art scene.

Face sculpture from MoMA

Image courtesy of MoMA

We handpicked six innovative programs to help narrow your search:

1. In the Making: Summer 2014: Museum of Modern Art, New York City

MoMA sponsors a six-week non-residency visual arts curriculum exclusively for New York City High School students.

  • The program, offered both in the spring and summer, is free for accepted students.
  • You’ll learn how to perfect your art, and at the end of the program students showcase their work in a teen-driven show at the Museum.
  • We like the fact that when students are not making art, they can be inspired by Monet’s Water Lilies, or absorb the history of cinema at a screening in the film department.
  • Apply by June 2nd, at 5 p.m. for consideration.

Tip: You’ll need a letter of recommendation from a teacher, advisor, counselor, or mentor (no family members, please).

2. Early College Program Summer Institute: School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Spread out over four two-week sessions from June to August, SAIC expects its young artists to live the rigorous (yet rewarding) life of a college student while still in high school.

  • Choose a session that will expose you to your preferred medium. There are classes in ceramics as well as video production.
  • Expect to do homework on the weekend, while receiving mentorship from skilled artists.
  • There are commuter high school classes too, but the majority of summer participants are resident students.
  • For a merit-based scholarship, students must submit a work portfolio. The base fee is $2,654 (not including supplies and optional housing costs). Financial assistance is available, as well as grants for Hispanic, parochial, and video journalism students.
  • Carve out a full day to fill in the required forms and register online by May 2nd.

Tip: Have a Ferris Bueller moment, and study the pointillist masterpiece “Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by George Seurat in the museum’s permanent collection.

Video courtesy of avalanchealonso

3. High School Visual Arts Summer Program: Interlochen Center for the Arts, Michigan

Located on a 1,200 acre woody campus in Northern Michigan, Interlochen is a full-fledged arts schools that offers a summer interdisciplinary residency program available in one to four week installments.

  • The vast offerings empower young visual artists to be inspired by an impressive catalogue of artistic expressions: music, theater, dance, and poetry.
  • Interlochen boasts an impressive registry of artistic talent in a more or less nature-infused environment. Laptops and cellphones are discouraged.
  • The program is a cross between an art camp and a college. Students can attend a college fair, and test preparation and college counseling are built into the program of study.
  • Tuition costs vary for the summer. The three week High School Visual Arts program is $5,005. The six-week High School Digital Filmmaking program is $7,965. The one week College Counseling and Test Preparation Summer Institute is $880.
  • There are scholarship opportunities.

Tip: Some programs require an audition or a portfolio in addition to the general admissions process.

4. Pre-College Program: San Francisco Art Institute

Nestled in the heart of Russian Hill in downtown San Francisco, SFAI offers juniors and seniors in high school a chance to experience an intensive five-week, six-college-credit course of study at a west coast art school.

  • There are subtle touches to this program that make it cool, such as showcasing your work next to Diego Rivera’s mural or getting the opportunity to screen an experimental film you made.
  • Cost is $3,000 for commuters and $5,000 for the residency program.The program runs from June 22th - July 26th.
  • Extra: The Academy of Art University is another San Francisco option.

Tip: Selection is competitive, so get a teacher/mentor to help you with the application process. Take high resolution photos of your work when you submit your application.

5. Parsons Summer Intensive Studies: The New School University, New York City

For young fashion aficionados, Parsons offers a three and four-week long “boot camp” tailored to groom pre-college students for the art/fashion world. Classes are designed to help students build a fashion portfolio to aid in the college admissions process.

  • Choose between Lower Manhattan or the first arrondissement in Paris.
  • Tuition is $3,364 (for New York City); $4,280 (Paris) (not including travel costs).
  • Scholarships are available for the second New York session only.
  • The program is set for May 27 - June 30, 2014 or June 30 - July 25, 2014.
  • Applications are on a rolling basis.

Tip: If you are younger than 16 (or a local student) take advantage of Parson’s Pre-College Academy in New York instead.

6. Summer Study Abroad: Sorbonne University, Paris

Summer Study Abroad is a private company that offers both credit and non-credit courses at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

  • Make the city of Paris your classroom. While the Louvre is an obvious choice to visit, Paris is a resplendent art museum all on its own. We personally recommend the Musée D’Orsay and a trip to Disneyland Paris.
  • Tuition costs range from $6,799 for a three week enrichment program to $9,299 for a five week college-credit course.
  • Very limited financial assistance is available based on need and academic achievement.
  • Apply here. Admission is on a rolling basis.
  • The cost does not include transportation from your home city to Paris.

Tip: Travel with other participants of the program to reduce travel costs.