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Unleash Your Creativity with a Studio Arts Degree

Students working on art projects in the Ceramics Lab in the Carmen Castellano Fine Arts Building at SJCC.

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

At San José City College, our vibrant arts programs encourage you to discover your creativity and flourish as students and artists — so that you can enjoy an inspired and fulfilling career. 

So if you’ve always been drawn to making things — drawing, sculpting, design — you should consider our AA-T Degree in Studio Arts. At SJCC, you’ll get the whole package, the formal education, expert guidance, and a community of artists to help you grow.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Studio Arts Program at SJCC.

What is Studio Art?

You may be a gifted artist, but if you’re just diving into art education, you may not know exactly what we mean by studio arts. So let’s dive in.

Heard of the fine arts? That’s a more inclusive term that refers to pretty much any art you can think of — including the performance kind (think dance, theater, etc.). But studio arts refers to visual arts that are often created, well, in a studio. Studio arts include drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, photography, and even digital media. And that’s not all, since artists can use nearly any material to create art in a studio. 

If you decide to pursue a studio arts degree, you’ll also get a solid foundation in art history. And you’ll get to explore lots of different mediums of art, so that you can discover a new side to your creativity.

 There is often some debate among artists about whether a formal education is worth your time. So some of you might be wondering — why go to art school? Here’s our answer.

Why Formal Art Education is Worth It 

If you want to pursue a career as an artist, the reality is that you’ll need a solid art education. Without it, you’d be limiting yourself and your potential.

There are so many reasons to formally study art. From practice, to access, to working with peers. And to the more rebellious artists out there, ever heard the phrase: you have to know the rules so you can break them

Practice & Explore New Art Forms

When you pursue a studio arts degree, you’ll be gently pushed outside your comfort zone so that you can grow. You’ll be supported as you explore new mediums of art that you may have never imagined. 

You may think you want to be a painter, but that could all change. Studying art helps you find out how to most originally express yourself, without limitations.

Art education also provides a bit of a reality check. When you enroll in art school, you’ll quickly learn that it requires practice, discipline, and hard work. Learning this lesson is much more difficult without the support of faculty and motivated peers.

“You learn to embrace the struggle if you want to improve. I think that’s pretty important to learn as an artist and as a person.”

Former SJCC art student, Lani Viet
SJCC student artwork in the Carmen Castellano Fine Arts Building.

Learn From Established Artists & Curious Peers

Even the most brilliant artist needs a support system. And nothing can compare to the creative community you’ll gain as an art student.

You’ll receive expert guidance from established artists and you’ll be inspired on a daily basis by your peers. Working with other artists at every stage in their career will help unleash the creativity within you.

Gain Opportunities for Exposure

As an art student, you’ll get to work on long-term projects. And you’ll often get the opportunity to share them with the wider community.

More often than not, when you get your art degree, you gain a platform to reach a broader community. Many programs will allow you to showcase your work in public events. Some will even give you the opportunity to sell it.

So the question becomes — why wouldn’t you go to art school?

The Beauty & Benefits of Choosing Studio Arts at SJCC

At San José City College, we know that art plays a key role in our society. So if you choose to begin your path here, you’re sure to thrive as an artist.

Faculty member, Michelle Gregor — a brilliant working artist who has been teaching at SJCC for 17 years, reminded us of the universal importance of art through a famous story about the impact a calligraphy class had on Steve Jobs. 

“That calligraphy class made him so fascinated by fonts that he insisted that his Macintosh computers be able to reproduce them. It was beauty and design, not pure functionality, that set Apple apart from the PC at its very inception.” Gregor Said. “Art classes are not just about technique. They are about learning how to think.” 

When you choose a Studio Arts Degree at SJCC, you’re choosing to value the power of beauty and the pursuit of self-expression. And SJCC will help you translate all of that into a gratifying arts career — here’s how.

Find Your Creative Voice

The experienced artists that make up our faculty know that studying art is about  embracing your own individual artistry. 

“Creativity is within us all, but it must be cultivated, honed, and cross-pollinated with the ideas of others. Ideally these creative wellsprings are from both the past and the present, and from cultures other than our own.” Gregor said.

“For me, learning about art is about tapping into that creativity and refining it.”  Said Lani Viet, a student of Gregor, and a talented artist herself. “I came in without knowing much […] I learned how to make art at the practical level […] from people who actually specialized in it.”

Under the gentle yet expert guidance of thoughtful teachers at SJCC, students learn to develop that creativity. An experience that is especially critical for students who have been historically underrepresented in the arts.

“For students who may not come from privilege, finding their own creative voices can be a profoundly validating and empowering experience.” Gregor said.

Cultivate Discipline & Resilience

In order to find this voice, any art student will tell you — you’ll need to put in the hours. Because honing your artistic abilities can only be done through lots and lots of practice.

“You also learn that art can be frustrating sometimes.” Viet said. “But as you keep doing it over and over again, you learn how to be patient with yourself and trust in the process. You learn to embrace the struggle if you want to improve. I think that’s pretty important to learn as an artist and as a person.”

“Take for example, students who have never touched ceramics (or wood, or wire, or fabric or stone) and become so impassioned by the material that hours pass without them realizing that class is almost over. They discover making. They try, they fail, they rework ideas and try again.” Gregor said. “That is the power of tenacity. The great power of ‘what if?’ — these are the transferable skills, the resiliency mindset, that I want students to take away from their time in art courses.”

“Creativity is within us all, but it must be cultivated, honed, and cross-pollinated with the ideas of others. Ideally these creative wellsprings are from both the past and the present, and from cultures other than our own.”

SJCC faculty and artist, Michelle Gregor
Michelle Gregor teaching at San José City College.

Learn in Collaborative, State-of-the-Art Facilities

The Carmen Castellano Fine Arts Building is the artists’ hub at SJCC. It comprises over 45,000 square feet of studios, music rehearsal rooms, classrooms, a state-of-the-art ceramics lab, and even an art gallery. Here, students will find the materials, space, and support to unleash their creativity and study art.

“The dedicated art gallery in the Carmen Castellano Building provides an exciting opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration with other departments. For example, in 2019 we collaborated with the Music Department […] The Dance Department periodically brings classes to the gallery to improvise choreography inspired by the art installations there.”

The Studio Arts Program even holds an Annual Ceramics Show and Sale. Students are able to get a taste of the business side of art, and are invited to sell their work. This event has been celebrated for more than 25 years. It has even been featured as a good place for holiday shopping by The Mercury News. And 20% of the proceeds go to the Potter’s Group Foundation, which uses the funds to buy new equipment like potter’s wheels, and bring special guest artists for public lectures at SJCC.

Find Your Artistic Community

The SJCC Fine Arts Building is an eminent space for local artists, so it’s no surprise that they love to spend time there.

“I remember being in the ceramics studio and chit-chatting with the people there.” Viet Said. “The interesting thing was that people gravitate towards that studio. You would see students stay after class, artists from nearby, and art professors from different departments and schools. I remember it as a place of community and warmth.”

Original photography by former SJCC student, Lani Viet. Title: Morning Waves.

Save Money & Guarantee Your Future

We can’t go without mentioning this one, because art school can be expensive. But at SJCC we offer affordable courses and a wide variety of financial support programs. Among them are — free tuition for first-time full-time students, the California College Promise Grant, and extensive scholarships. Check out all of our financial aid programs here.

Like all of our other Associate’s Degrees for Transfer (AD-T), the Studio Arts degree at SJCC partners with California Community Colleges to offer the Degree with A Guarantee Program. So, when you complete your general and major requirements with a 2.0 or higher, you are guaranteed a spot at a select number of California State Universities (CSUs). Choosing this route, and beginning your art education at a bay area community college will drastically reduce your education costs if you plan to transfer to a 4-year university.

And if you do you go on to pursue additional education in the arts (like a BFA in Studio Arts), you’ll enjoy lots of creative career options. Which include: Fashion Designer, Fine Art Preparator, Illustrator, Animator, Architect, Studio Artist, or Art Educator. But the possibilities are truly endless!

Choose Studio Arts & ‘Discover Making’ at San José City College

At SJCC, we appreciate the importance and the urgency of art education. We see the value in artistic community, expert guidance, and making practical choices to support a long-lasting creative career. So if you’re so inclined — check out the Studio Arts Program at SJCC, and discover making.


And if you’re feeling inspired but you want to know more about our other arts opportunities at SJCC, check out our transfer degrees in Theatre Arts and Journalism.