Carissa Kaye painting

Successful artists know that supporting themselves takes more than just artistic talent and passion for their craft. It takes perseverance and dedication—and a quality college education is a strong foundation too.

At FRCC, many budding artists begin their journeys with a few art classes, or even an Associate of Arts (AA) degree in either studio art or art history. With the foundation that an FRCC education provides, students can go on to earn four-year degrees and become fine artists, art teachers, museum curators, art directors and more.

Art Is for Everyone

All kinds of students are drawn to the art program at FRCC, according to Heidi Cordova Strang, PhD, who is lead art faculty member and department chair of the Creative and Technical Arts, Humanities and Languages Department at FRCC’s Westminster Campus.

“We have students who take the guaranteed transfer classes and we have many students—the majority, I would say—who are intending to go on and major in art at a four-year college or university,” she says.

A Viable Career

Strang adds that art is a viable career with many possibilities. “We want to dispel the myth that art is not a good career path,” she says.

“There are many things students could do in the art world—from mural making, which has become huge in every major city in the US—to printmaking to museum and curation work. Many of our students eventually go on to teach art, which affords them a steady income while they can create their own art. The options are many.”

Carissa Kaye: Painter

FRCC art alumna Carissa Kaye took classes at the Westminster Campus from 2013 to 2017. Painting had been a hobby throughout her teens and 20s, but when she decided to attend college in her late 20s, she found her way to the art classes at FRCC—and never looked back.

“Every instructor I had at FRCC was a wonderful human being, in art as well as business and literature,” she says. “In fact, it was my English instructor who told me once that after you release your art, it isn’t your place to care about what others think. That simple comment gave me permission to be myself and never stop my process or critique or change my work because someone else told me I should.”

Finding Her Voice

Carissa’s medium of choice is acrylic paint on canvas and she builds her own frames for her paintings. Her focus is to bring brightness to subjects that tend to be dark, figuratively speaking. She describes her work as “avant-garde, sort of bold rainbows and colorful.”

“The loss and the sorrow and the dust in life are still beautiful,” she says. “I try to highlight those moments in color.”

Professor Strang taught Carissa in several classes and says she knew she had a talent then. “Carissa is a special spirit,” she says. “I think our program gave her confidence to realize that she has what it takes to be an artist.”

Kristin Gruenberger: Ceramicist

Kristin Gruenberger took art classes at FRCC from 2006 to 2008 before transferring to Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a ceramics emphasis in 2011. Now a teacher, she works at the Art Students League of Denver, the Crested Butte Clay Studio and the Gunnison Art Center.

Kristin makes whimsical tableware—anything from coasters to vases to bowls—and ceramic garden sculptures. She exhibits and sells her work at festivals and markets around Colorado as well as on her website. 

“FRCC’s supportive environment played a big part in inspiring me to keep moving forward,” Kristin says. “The malleability of the course material, the possibilities shown to me by my instructors—one of whom introduced me to clay—and the clear delivery of the possibilities after college—all of that nurtured my creativity.”

The Importance of Training

While there are artists who are self-taught, Dr. Strang explains that art education is worthwhile and valuable. “I believe that’s essential and expected nowadays, whether you are a studio artist or you teach art history—to be able to say you’ve received some sort of formal training,” she says.

“You need to know good techniques and where those techniques came from. You need to know about safety when using different machines and tools. If you paint sunflowers, well, someone already did that—so knowing your art history is important.”

FRCC art students who earn the AA degree can transfer as a junior into one of 11 Colorado colleges and universities to major in studio arts or one of eight Colorado colleges and universities to major in art history. Or, students who aren’t planning to major in art can choose from the list of courses that are guaranteed to transfer to ensure that their credits will apply to another degree.

Points of Distinction

FRCC’s Westminster Campus has a visual arts center—called the “D” building or art building–with some pretty amazing facilities, including:

  • a printing press
  • a ceramics studio with two electric kilns
  • a jewelry art studio
  • a drawing studio
  • a painting studio
  • a critique wall for students to display work in progress

“You don’t find too many community colleges with a freestanding art building,” Strang points out. “We have several full-time faculty members across our campuses who are solely dedicated to the arts. We also have a gallery space at Westminster, which is another rarity and a game changer.”

Offered at All Three Campuses—and Online

The Associate of Arts degree in either art history or studio arts is offered at the Boulder County, Larimer and Westminster campuses—with many classes offered online as well. Professor Strang encourages students to visit each department’s webpage (below) and reach out to an advisor for more information.

“Our art program prepares students for rigorous university work—and we’ve worked with professors at the colleges and universities where students transfer to ensure that,” Strang says. “We’re very proud of our program. Here, students begin to gain the skills to make it in the art world.”

Related Posts