CLEMSON – Clemson University students studying art have a new degree option. Starting with the current 2020-21 academic year, undergraduates can elect to complete a Bachelor of Arts with concentrations in digital art and design media, studio art or art history.

Jiawei Deng

Jiawei Deng is a senior who has combined her studies in art with a major in Psychology. She hopes to graduate in December as Clemson’s first student to earn a B.A. in art.

The B.A. program balances courses in studio art and art history with a broad liberal arts education. Students select a minor or second major to customize their educational experience and pursue their desired career path.

“The runaway enthusiasm for the art minor, with participation from students in more than 70 undergraduate degree programs at Clemson, shows growing interest in creative career pathways, as diverse as each incoming or existing student,” said Valerie Zimany, chair of the art department.

“Creativity can’t be automated,” she said. “The arts cultivate critical thinking and resilience, two of the top indicators of future success. In this time especially, graduates who can imagine new possibilities and create whole new worlds of innovation will lead not only the arts but tackle our most pressing contemporary problems.”

Immediate opportunities

Until recently, Clemson students who wished to study art had to choose between a minor and the intensive BFA program.

The new B.A. offers adaptability. And the program will have an immediate impact on students like Jiawei Deng, a senior combining art studies with a major in Psychology.

Deng hopes to complete a dual degree in December, which would make her Clemson University’s first student to earn a B.A. in art.

Before she came to Clemson, Deng was already considering a career in art therapy. As a student at the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, Deng discovered film photography.

“I just love it,” she said.

At Clemson, Deng was able to try her hand at large format photography. Because each 4-inch sheet of film must be loaded into the camera individually, “you are spending more time thinking about the composition, and why you are taking the photo,” she said.

Deng complemented her studies with work-study positions, contributing graphic design to departmental social media and interning in the Makerspace.

She is now considering several art therapy graduate programs in the Northeast. But first, Deng hopes to visit Guangzhou, China to see her grandparents and re-experience the country of her birth, which she hasn’t seen for more than a decade.

Deng said she has loved her studio art experience at Clemson, and appreciates that the new B.A. program requirements also allow more time for other studies.

“It’s more flexible,” she said.

Different paths

Both the B.A. in art and the BFA in visual arts at Clemson are degrees accredited through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Clemson also offers an accredited Master of Fine Arts.

Both undergraduate programs are built upon four foundations studio classes covering drawing, 2D and 3D design, and 4D art (digital art and time-based media like video). B.A. students are encouraged to combine their art concentrations with studies in other disciplines, while BFA students create a cohesive body of work that culminates in a thesis exhibition.

Art students at Clemson have rich opportunities for professional experience through internships and Creative Inquiry classes such as Atelier InSite and CSArt.

The new B.A. degree program was approved by the Clemson University Board of Trustees in April 2019 and cleared the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education in the summer of 2020.