Here at St. Lawrence, there are many fantastic studio art classes. The classes are rigorous and usually demand upwards of six hours outside of the two and half hour blocks of class time that occur twice a week. The prerequisite for all studio courses is Drawing I, which teaches the fundamentals of representational drawing. Though drawing is an elemental skill artists need to master, is it necessary for those who only wish to test the waters?
There is an exception to the general Drawing I prerequisite; Intro to Ceramics I has no prerequisites. This is the only studio course listed this year without a prerequisite, save a few unique 3000 level courses offered once in a blue moon. Many students who are not studio art majors simply do not have the time in their academic career to take two studio courses. They instead opt to take none. As Daniel Banta, a history major, puts it, “Photography is one of my hobbies and I was excited to take a photography class to learn more about it, but because of my major, I couldn’t take drawing and photography. I’m also not good at drawing, so I didn’t want to get a bad grade. I wish I could have just taken photography instead.” This poses a problem, since many students who could leave campus with a course in the arts do not because of this prerequisite. Is this not doing a disservice to our liberal arts degrees?
While on the one hand the Drawing I prerequisite poses an obstacle for many, it is necessary for Studio Art majors. Drawing I must continue to be required for studio art majors as drawing is such a fundamental skill for artists regardless of the media they may branch out into. However, even here there are exceptions. Many students coming into SLU are already well versed in drawing. The class can be redundant. Ryan Davis, a studio art major focused on painting, says, “I think it is inefficient to make people take drawing if they already know how. Drawing is really important to painting, so you should have to prove you know how, maybe through a portfolio or small assignment, but to make an artist take Intro to Drawing is a waste of a semester. If someone is really experienced in calculus in high school, they take a placement exam instead of having to take pre-calculus again.” Perhaps if students could demonstrate their previous skills with a portfolio or drawing skill test, time could be saved in the short SLU careers of many.
All in all, there are many students who wish they could take studio courses like photography, but simply cannot spare the extra credit or sustain the likely GPA hit that the Drawing I prerequisite poses. There are also many studio art majors who wish they could use the drawing credit to further their studies in their medium or explore other subjects entirely. We all came to St. Lawrence instead of, say, engineering school, because we are all explorers who want options. Opening introductory studio art classes to all students, regardless of artistic background, and offering an extra credit to those who can prove themselves fluent in drawing give us far more options. I think we would all appreciate a true liberal arts degree.