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Southwest School Of Art Makes Leap Into Accredited Education With Four-Year Degree Program

Southwest School of Art

A major art story has happened pretty quietly here in San Antonio. It’s not a theater debut, a Picasso exhibit, or a huge new installation, but what’s happening now should be a major splash in the city’s
artistic future.

"The BFA degree program starts next week with orientation of the students, and they begin their coursework on Monday the 25," said Southwest School of Art's Paula Owen, who is talking about the school’s new BFA degree program.

"This is a natural next step for the Southwest School of Art," she said.

So exactly what is the program?

“It’s a four-year program that includes 70-some hours in studio work, which is why it’s a professional degree in fine arts," she said. "But the remaining 40-some hours is in general education. So the students get a well-rounded liberal arts education including psychology and history and literature and math and science and so forth.”

Students will get the full range of education, but as Owens explained, the school has an artistic take on how those courses are taught.

“For instance, the math course is called 'math for artists.' It’s more conceptually based, a little more abstract approach to mathematics," Owens said. "Our literature course, one of them is 'the artist in literature and film.' "

For nearly 50 years the Southwest School has been making art classes available to the general public, but now they have made the formal step into accredited education. There are many reasons why, but Owens said this is a major one:

"There is no other independent college of art in the state of Texas," she said.

So you can get an art degree at the University of Texas, but it’s not an independent school of art.

"Right. And there are those students who will benefit from being surrounded by like-minded people," she said. "And who really aren’t interested in some of the other aspects of going to a university, say athletics. They really are very, very focused."  

I asked her if all classes were taught there at the Southwest School.

“Yes, they will all be held here. We have the two campuses: the Navarro Campus and the Ursuline Campus. And we have space until we reach 100 students in the BFA program, and we’re starting very small. We’ll have 25 or so students each year,” Owens said.

I noted that while they have two campuses, they're just separated by a street.

"That’s right, with the pubic library on the third corner, and in fact, the public library will be our library of record" Owens said. "We’ve merged our collections we’ve formed what will be known as the Marie Schwartz Art Resource Center, which is available to our students, but also available to the public.”

For those of you wondering if the new degree program will affect class availability for the art classes, she says that will not be the case. Regarding the BFA course, I had to ask how much it costs.

“It’s just under $20,000 a year, which is quite reasonable in the realm of private colleges," Owens said.

They also have scholarships available. Like other colleges, the Southwest School will be on a semester basis, but as Owens detailed, there’s an added, intensive May semester.

“And that’s called our May master, so that the student will take one course, and it will meet most of the day, for five days a week so that they can go deeply into one of their studio areas,” she said.

The new degree program could help solidify the city’s evolving reputation as an arts focused city, a possibility that Owens agreed with heartily.

"I truly believe that this degree program will be one more star in the crown of San Antonio," she said.

Their initial semester is closed, but registration for next semester is available.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii