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A Guide for Parents of Prospective Students

If you’ve come to this section of MIAD’s site, you’re probably either:
The parent of a talented child, committed to visual arts education, who wants to know everything about MIAD.

or (more likely)

The parent of a talented child, who wants what’s best for that child, but is skeptical of the visual arts and the value of a MIAD education.

MIAD at Night

For the purposes of this guide, we will assume you are the latter. Fear not, your concerns are important and your commitment to your child’s education is admirable. We will spend this time trying to address the most common issues that parents bring up every day, dispel any myths about visual arts education, and show you why MIAD is such a wonderful educational environment.

Often when parents ask questions about a school’s average ACT score, graduation rate, or campus safety they are really only asking one question: “Will my son or daughter be okay?” While the specific questions are important and relevant, let’s get to the REAL questions many parents have about MIAD:

Q. Is MIAD really a college?
A. Yes, yes, yes.
This may seem like a silly question, but when someone asks about accreditation, this is what they’re really asking. MIAD offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA), is fully accredited by the North Central Association, which accredits colleges, and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), which accredits visual art programs. MIAD is also affiliated with some of the nation’s strongest organizations for visual arts education: National Portfolio Day Association (NPDA), Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD), the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA). MIAD is a member of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), and the Wisconsin Federation of Independent Colleges (WFIC). We also have a cross-registration program with Marquette University, one of the nation’s most well-known and respected universities. These connections alone should make clear that MIAD is not only a college, but one of the strongest colleges for visual art in the nation.

Q. My child has a real gift in art / design, but I just can’t see how they could make a living as an artist. Do artists really starve?
A. No. Seriously. Just take a look around your living room, and you’ll see the mark of artists and designers everywhere. First of all, the space you are sitting in was designed by an interior architect or designer. The computer you’re using and chair you’re sitting on looks like it does because of an industrial designer. Millions of websites, including this one, are in part the work of communication designers, illustrators, animators, videographers, and photographers. And your home certainly has examples of fine art – paintings, prints, sculptures and so on. Extend that to every house, business, gallery, theater and museum and you’ll have some idea of how many people are involved in the visual arts.

As well, the business world sees the value of a creative arts degree. There are many who believe that the BFA/MFA is becoming the new MBA. The skills that all businesses seek — creative problem-solving, independent thinking, self-reliance — are exactly the skills that a BFA embraces. As a result, industries that you may not traditionally think of as needing artists / designers are seeking more and more creative people.

And while many colleges have art departments, in order to survive in competitive environments, a focused program is important. MIAD’s highly recognized BFA degree requires 124 credits in 70% rigorous studio coursework, 30% intense liberal studies coursework. Most colleges with an art major offer a BA degree, which requires much less studio art coursework. MIAD students focus on, at all times and in multiple ways, communicating one’s own visual ideas through critiques and presentations. Companies consistently want MIAD students over students coming from other programs because of their serious dedication and technical sophistication.

MIAD graduates are employed in every facet of visual art and design imaginable. And nearly 30% of MIAD graduates own their own businesses; many begin freelancing even before graduating. MIAD graduates make paintings that sell for tens of thousands of dollars, are art directors, are the key designers of Harley-Davidson’s new electric motorcycles, create Real Simple magazine, art direct Lexus commercials, teach at every level, are internationally recognized Flash developers, create internationally recognized conceptual art, grace the cover of New Art Examiner, design Trek bikes, and much more.

Q. Come on, how serious or “collegiate” can an art class be?
A. Very. At this point, please remove the vision of the lazy, beret-wearing bohemian from your mind. Replace it with a hard-working, serious, intellectually engaged student.

First of all, studio art classes are rigorous. 3 hours long, usually two times a week, the classes have the intensity of a “lab class”, lecture, final exam and brainstorming session all rolled into one. The average freshman student at MIAD spends 28 hours a week in class, more than the average college student. And studio classes do not allow for the “cram for the exam” mentality; work done for the class is evaluated constantly, with little room for make up. There are no mid-terms or finals, only constant work, projects and personal growth.

Second, there is homework, and a lot of it. Most courses have projects that are due every 2-3 weeks with specific expectations for each day of class. And much of the work to meet these expectations is done outside of class, often taking more time than is spent in class. Making art or design work takes up a lot of mental, and often physical, energy. Each day brings creative challenges, deadlines, and high expectations.

Also, critiques focus on the successes and failures within each piece, with the understanding that each student will be engaged, offer opinion and analysis, and learn from this collective process. And, before you forget, students do take “regular” classes in Liberal Studies. And while these courses constitute a smaller number of credits, their impact on the overall experience and workload cannot be underestimated.

Q. Besides learning how to draw, what will my child learn?
A. While our main goal is to educate studio artists, MIAD has a strong focus on academics.
MIAD’s Liberal Studies program is an integral part of MIAD’s curriculum; it is not a separated “add-on”. The goal of the program is to excite and engage students to become lifelong learners. Artists and designers are influenced by the world just as much as they influence it. And through liberal studies, that influence is brought into focus and magnified.

MIAD’s Liberal Studies program has a strong writing component with an emphasis on creativity and problem-solving. All students learn to write convincingly, both personally and professionally. They learn to harness their creativity within multiple disciplines, not just within the visual arts. And all students are required to complete a community service component, to help broaden their view of the world.

Q. Is MIAD’s campus safe?
A. Yes. MIAD is located in the Historic Third Ward, just south of downtown Milwaukee. It is a safe area, which is currently under a major transition into a high-end, contemporary residential and commercial neighborhood. In fact, the Third Ward is the fastest growing district in the entire state, and has historically had one of the lowest crime rates of any district in Milwaukee. As with any urban campus, common sense safety rules apply. For example, walking with a buddy between the main campus and residence is encouraged at night, and can be arranged through MIAD security.

Q. How can we pay for this?
A. There are more options than you realize.
Without going into too much detail about the intricacies of financial aid, it should be said that the vast majority of MIAD students are not wealthy. In fact, MIAD’s demographic population is financially similar to the norms of state and national trends. Therefore, any family from any tax bracket should consider a MIAD education, and not instantly succumb to “sticker shock”.

In your college search, determine which colleges you wish to attend, apply for admission, financial aid, and scholarship to those schools. You can then make your decision based on real cost of attendance. With a combination of grants, scholarships and loans, you’ll probably find MIAD to be more reasonable than you’d expect. But it’s critical to apply for aid in a timely manner. For comphrensive information about the financial planning process, go to the Financial Aid section of the MIAD website.

Q. Is MIAD worth the cost?
A. That ultimately is for each family to decide. We invite you to explore this website in full, look at the quality of student work, the thought put into each program of study, the dedication of the MIAD faculty and staff. Then, contact a MIAD representative to set up a visit, and repeatedly ask yourself that question. We think you’ll agree that MIAD is one of the nation’s best educational values.

Q. Will my child be okay at MIAD?
A. Yes.
Give us a chance to show you.


Exhibition at Hawthorn Contemporary curated by MIAD alum

Monica Miller ’13 (Integrated Studio Arts) has their hands full, from opening and managing the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s (MIAD) new offsite Gallery at The Ave to keeping up with their own artistic and curatorial practice. Now, Miller will curate Grasping Tenderness: Explorations of Queer Joy & Freedom, In Spite of Everything at Hawthorn Contemporary in Milwaukee’s historic Walker’s Point neighborhood.

TMJ4 features two MIAD graduates during AAPI month

Stephanie Brown of TMJ4 News featured recent graduates Mengdian Xing ’23 (Product Design) and her sister Lynn Xing ’23 (Interior Architecture and Design) during a month-long celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage.

Magic: The Gathering tournament in Italy features Illustration faculty

Ever since he was a student at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), Associate Professor of Illustration John Matson has incorporated fantasy illustration into his work. This lifelong fascination has led to a fruitful career as a fantasy illustrator and educator, most recently manifesting in an invitation to attend a Magic: The Gathering tournament in Italy as a guest illustrator.

Successful Creative Fusion gala closes Our Creative Future campaign

Raising more than $10 million is no small feat. The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) announced it had exceeded its comprehensive campaign goal of $10 million after its annual fundraising gala Creative Fusion: Fashion Forward, where donors generously raised more than $485,000 in scholarship support on May 6, 2023.

2023 Penfield Poster Competition bolsters professional experience

This year’s Penfield Poster winners have been announced! In collaboration with advertising agency Cramer-Krasselt, 80 juniors at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) designed posters for the Annual Croquet Ball fundraiser at the Penfield Children’s Center.