Ten Guided Tips for Stern College Art Majors

By Rebecca Kerzner

I have gotten a ton of questions at the start of this semester about the art major at Stern and how to navigate the terrain of the eighth floor of 215 Lexington, the place we call home. I’ve written this article for both aspiring art majors and curious onlookers. For the aspiring art major and newbie to the art floor, this is going to be your handy tool guide for understanding what you are getting yourself into. For the onlooker, this will reveal the true life of an art major.


  1. Stern College for Women has a really great art department. 🎨

The Stern art major is located exclusively on the 8th floor of 215. When you enter those doors, it feels as if you’ve been transported somewhere far away from college. The walls are adorned with a variety of paintings, drawings, and graphic art, and there is a little lounge area with couches and tables. During the daytime, it can be a great place to escape from the buzz of the other floors and relax. There are two heads of the art department: Traci Tullius and Mary Creede. Traci and Mary go by their first names, which is super cool, and they are incredibly friendly and willing to answer any questions. It’s also easy to get on their good sides if you act honestly and show initiative towards the assignments. Along with the foundational courses, Mary also teaches specialized courses in applied and fine arts, like 3D Design, Faux Finishing, and watercolor and Traci also teaches Video and new media courses! All of the art faculty are also professional artists in a variety of fields from film and video to graphic design.


  1. An art major has a self-expressive outlet that helps them cope.

College has its tough moments but one of the perks of an art major is that you have a constant outlet to express yourself creatively. It allows you to pour out all the difficult emotions into your art and lose yourself within it. It is also comforting to know that when outside things cause you to start falling down, you can count on your art to help lift you up. Each brushstroke an artist paints is one step closer to recovery and the feeling of looking at a finished masterpiece is euphoric

  1. It is amazing to be in a major that fits both your career and passion.

This is by far one of my favorite things about being an art major. You get to do what you really love and feel creatively stimulated all the way to your core. It truly is a blessing. The only issue with this one is that because artwork is an expression of the self, it becomes a sensitive subject and criticism of it can hurt really deeply. Nevertheless, this is a small price to pay for having such an awesome major.


  1. It is really beneficial to read books outside of the art classes.

In addition to taking classes at Stern, I highly recommend reading books outside of the curriculum to get more of what’s out there. It’s a non-intimidating way to understand what type of jobs are in store for the future and to gain confidence in seeing what you already know as you read. For other graphic design majors I highly recommend: Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type. But my favorite book is Phil Cleaver’s What They Didn’t Teach You in Design School. This one covers a huge variety of topics from the broad industry to the nitty-gritty need-to-knows for design applications.


Teacher’s note:The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Creativity is not a gift from the gods, says Twyla Tharp, bestowed by some divine and mystical spark. It is the product of preparation and effort, and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it.” –Mary Creede


  1. Search the google-sphere.

Google is your best friend when it comes to answering all the fast questions. A Google a day keeps the doctor away — or in this case, the angst. It’s also a quick way to settle the “will I be a starving artist because I chose to be an art major” question. Upon careful research, I have found that it is simply not true. So Google away and answer all those burning questions you have about what it’s like to be an art major. Another one of my favorites to search is “creative career salaries” or “coolest jobs for an art major.” There is really so much out there for you!

  1. Know that you have what it takes to push yourself.

Of course you will be surrounded by other talented art majors. But I also strongly believe that once you’ve got a little bit of that art muscle in you, it’s a muscle you can work on and exercise to get better and better. You will be very surprised at a lot of the work you will create when you set your mind to it. Plus, the art classes at Stern give you a lot of time to work on each project so there is ample time to push yourself and perfect your work.


  1. Start thinking about things early.

Start thinking about where you want to take things early on. If you know of any art people at other art schools, talk to them. Ask around with your family and friends and see if they know anybody in the field you are interested in. Connect with them and maybe get a coffee. People really do enjoy meeting with us youngsters and sharing their wisdom, and it’s a great way to ask your questions about where they feel you stand in the workplace.  Traci and Mary would be elated to talk to you about the artist’s life as well! Their doors are always open…whether in crisis, out of curiosity, or just a friendly chat.

  1. Let’s talk FIT classes. Sit down and get comfy. I’m going to share my hack with y’all.

FIT classes are a little complicated to get into. When Stern students decide to take an FIT class, we aren’t allowed to take any class we want because FIT dubs us (being affiliated with an outside school) as “part-time” students. What this means is that we get last pick of classes, after all the students who actually attend FIT choose their classes. In reality, this leaves very few classes for us to choose from and even less once you get around to comparing the FIT courses with our wacko dual curriculum schedules.

One semester at FIT I tried to get into an illustration class. I set an appointment with the illustration chair and he stared at me blankly as he said, “you aren’t in the program so you aren’t qualified and don’t have the right prerequisites.” I argued and argued, but he wouldn’t budge, and I was crushed. I really wanted to take these classes, and I was qualified. The only thing he offered me was to check out the communication design (CD) department because they usually have more open classes for us “part-time” students. As I despondently walked out of his office, I was filled with a “he will RUE this day once I am rich and famous” feeling. I meandered over to the CD chair down the hall and much to my surprise, this man was incredibly kind. I explained to him the situation and he printed out the class roster and highlighted all the available courses for me (5 out of 50). I enrolled in Digital Layout I with Isaac Paris, (who taught my cool graphic design friend at Pratt. Highly recommended!) and the rest was history. Since then, I’ve gone to the super nice CD chair to register for classes. If you are looking to get into an FIT class, just go to the department chair for the subject you’re interested in and ask him/her what part-time classes are available. Save yourself the time and the headache. 

Teacher’s Note: Traci can also help steer you in the right direction because she knows what students in the past have worked out, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel all on your own. 

  1. You create YOU.

When you choose to be an art major, people will undoubtedly ask you, “so, what are you going to do with that?” with a curious yet slightly pained expression. I used to tell people that graphic designers were the people who made brochures and logos, and I really thought that that’s what I needed to do to make any money in the industry. But the truth is, over time, I learned that I loved drawing, Buzzfeed-style writing, and making people smile with my art. This major is the key to endless opportunities. If you like taking pictures, start a photography blog. If you like to draw, keep doing it. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into something that you don’t love. These are the beautiful undergrad years when we can explore where we want to go with our art and how we want to market ourselves. It’s really the best time to spread our wings wide, and not shield ourselves in what we perceive as the cocoon of safety and comfort.

  1. Don’t ever forget how friggin’ cool it is to be an art major.

At social gatherings, people are always excited to hear that you’re majoring in art. Also, when the projects aren’t giving stress with their deadlines or deadly details, they can be some of the most fun times you will ever have. There is no greater bonding that happens than during the last couple days grueling over the line project in Principles of Design. In typography, the applications will wow you with their god-like abilities #photoshopFTW #butdontneglectillustrator #andindesigniscooltoo. Beginner Painting will teach you how to use a paintbrush like a pro and Principles of Drawing will help you master charcoal. The Stern College Art major opens us to such a wide spectrum of possibility that it really feels like the world is our oyster.

I know that when I look back on my years at Stern College for Women, being an art major will be undoubtedly one of, if not my favorite part of my Stern College experience. I hope this article enlightens, illuminates, and excites you to appreciate the major you’ve chosen.


Good luck out there!  

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