General Studies

Craft is Connection.
General Studies explores the framework of what we do, know and make. The curriculum broadens the context in which students experience and appreciate the connection between art and the world. It provides a strong foundation for students as they begin to study in their selected area of concentration. The curriculum provides students the forum for considering who they are as makers and gives them practical tools to navigate the world outside the art community.

Art History classes deepen the understanding of historical and contemporary art and craft across disciplines, connecting students with their predecessors and peers.

Social Science and Humanities examine topics such as humor, nature, war, and ethnicity and their relationship to art.

Writing courses develop the artist's ability to communicate about work in a non-visual context.

Studies in Natural Science and Mathematics unite mathematical analysis with the shape and form of the natural world.

Concept seminars marry technique to concept through reading, discussion and hands-on exercises. Interdisciplinary courses unite faculty and students from all concentrations, providing opportunities to problem solve and discuss issues across disciplinary boundaries.

Thesis-related coursework provides an interdisciplinary forum where thesis students acquire pragmatic and realistic experience as contemporary artists.

Course Descriptions

AH101 History of Art: Survey of Western Art | 3 semester credits
An overview of the major artistic developments in Western Art from the Paleolithic to the fourteenth century, this course analyzes works of art and architecture as part of a cultural continuum with emphasis on content, meaning and function in addition to aesthetic concerns. The goal of the course is to equip students with an understanding of the history of Western art and the ability to describe and analyze works based on that framework. It provides an important foundation for subsequent courses in the College’s curriculum by familiarizing students with major individuals and movements in Art History and providing them with the critical tools to chronologically place and assess works of art. No prerequisite. Required text: Gardner's Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective, Volume I, 14th edition by Fred S. Kleiner, ISBN 9781133954811.

AH102 History of Art: Survey of Western Art | 3 semester credits
Addressing the major artists and movements, relating them to their historical context, this course provides an overview of the visual arts from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. Special attention will be paid to the major philosophical,political and social developments–the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution--and the ways in which they affected cultural production. The class also charts the radical shifts in visual culture and visual literacy that attended these developments. As in the first half of the survey, students will analyze the ways in which works of art reflect political, religious and social values, the intentions of the artists, and the reception of those works by the public. No prerequisite. Required text to be determined.

AH301 Art and Craft in the Early Americas | 3 semester credits
Focused on the Central Andes and Mesoamerica, two major cultural centers in the early Americas, this course examines the development of art and craft media within the broader context of environmental, social, political, religious and economic influences. The Central Andes includes the Chavin, Paracas, Nasca, Moche, Wari, Tiwanaku, Chimú, and Inca cultures, while Mesoamerica includes the Olmec, Zapotec, Mayan, West Mexican, Toltec and Mexica/Aztec civilizations. Prerequisites: AH101, AH102 and 6 semester credits of Humanities. Required text: The Art of Mesoamerica: From Olmec to Aztec (Fourth edition) by Mary Ellen Miller, ISBN 0500203927, $21.95; Art of the Andes: From Chavin to Inca (Second edition) by Rebecca Stone-Miller, ISBN 0500203636, $19.95.

AH302  Modern and Contemporary Craft | 3 semester credits
Delving into an exploration of the history of craft, this course begins with the nineteenth-century Arts and Crafts movements and ends with a survey of contemporary craft artists. Students will be expected to document the development of craft, providing an historical and critical context that draws on art history, aesthetics, material and visual culture, and the nascent field of craft theory. The course will address the relationship of art, craft, and design and the reasons why they have been defined as distinctive practices. The goal of the course is to equip students with a general understanding not only of the history of craft in the 20th and 21st centuries, but also the ways in which it has been theorized and contextualized. Prerequisites: AH101, 102 and 6 semester credit hours in Humanities. Required text to be determined.

AH303 Artists and the Sciences | 3 semester credits
Art and science have long been engaged with many of the same issues, influencing and, at times, indistinguishable from one another. Studies of space, time, optics, color, mechanics, astronomy, botany and biology can be found in the art and science of cultures both ancient and modern and reflect the larger concerns and characteristics of those cultures. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the interests of scientists and artists continue to evolve, often in tandem. This course will explore the work of contemporary artists who draw upon the physical, natural, and social sciences as a source for their work. Prerequisites: AH101, AH102 and 6 semester credits of humanities. Required text to be determined.

AH306 Art Since 1945 | 3 semester credits
Focusing on works produced in the second half of the twentieth century, this course explores the visual arts – painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and video. Students will investigate the ways in which the avant-garde defined itself and its artistic strategies in relation to broader cultural concerns.  These include not only aspects of a shifting visual culture - advertising, industrial production, television, the computer, and consumer culture - but also the social and political struggles that characterized the recent past: the civil rights movement, feminism, environmentalism, the anti-war movement, and globalization.  In addition, the class will consider the critical constructs of Modernism and Postmodernism and the ways in which they have been applied by artists and critics alike.  Together with AH 101 and AH 102, this course completes the comprehensive survey of Western Art. Prerequisites: AH 101 and AH 102 and 6 credits of humanities.

CS301 Concept Seminar: Time and Sequence | 3 semester credits
As part of the concept seminar sequence, this course is designed to complement students’ academic and studio practices. It will deal with the themes of time and sequence in art and the multivalent ways in which these larger themes are expressed. Students will examine the marking of time, the assessment of time as personal experience and as memory, and time as a marker of identity – of the past and our relation to it. Based on these larger categories, we will examine the work of contemporary artists and writers who grapple with ways in which to express these concepts. These include time-based work like performance and film as well as work that comments or depends on the effects of time’s passing. Sequencing will be addressed directly in the first two projects and will probably form some part of the third and final project. Prerequisites: FDR102, FDR104 and one year (6 semester credits) in student’s concentration. Required text to be determined.

CS302  Concept Seminar: Beauty | 3 semester credits
What is beauty? How do we know what is beautiful? Concept Seminars are upper-division interdisciplinary studio classes that involve a great deal of reading/discussion centered on a concept, style or historical topic. In this seminar, students are required to read and discuss various aspects of aesthetics and anti-aesthetics as practiced historically and in contemporary art practice. Intellectual and academic concepts developed throughout the class will be explored and tested as students create work and participate in critiques based on the vocabulary of beauty. Prerequisite: FDR102, FDR104 and one year (6 semester credits) in student’s concentration. Required text: Beauty and Art by Elizabeth Prettejohn, ISBN-10: 0192801600, $26.00.

CS303: Concept Seminar: Contemporary Issues | 3 semester credits
Art can never be explained in purely formal, artistic, intellectual or individual terms, without reference to the time and place of its origin.  It is always created in a political, social, or other public context. In this course, students investigate controversial contemporary issues to motivate their ideas and influence their work. The class will examine the work of a variety of contemporary artists whose work is issue-based.  Students will learn to research issues and then create artworks that effectively address the topics they find consequential. Students may work in any medium.  Prerequisite: FDR102, FDR104 and one year (6 semester credits) in student’s concentration. Required text to be determined.

HU/SS101 Origins of Modernism | 3 semester credits
In order to understand the evolution of a present-day society, students examine the material, social and cultural consequences of the rise of “modern” Euro-American culture. This first semester of a yearlong sequence begins with the period in the late 18th century leading up to the French Revolution, and concludes at the end of the nineteenth century. Using historical, literary and philosophical writings, students examine the relationship between an emergent democracy, the spread of mass culture, the shifting canons and practices of art, and the development of industry and the sciences. No prerequisite. Required text to be determined.

HU/SS102  Modernism in the 20th Century | 3 semester credits
In this second term of the class, students explore the development of modernist literature and art in Europe and the United States, beginning in the first decades of the 20th century. Chronologically, the course tracks the changing ideas and preoccupations of consciously modern societies: rebellious new forms of art at the beginning of the century; World War I and its ramifications; the restlessness and reforms of the twenties and thirties; the trauma of the Second World War; the tension between cultural consensus and dissent in the post-war period; and the emergence of countercultures in politics, art and literature in the sixties. The course emphasizes the interplay between innovation and tradition in the spheres of literature, music, film, and the visual arts. No prerequisite. Required text to be determined.

HU205  Art and War: Protest and Propaganda, 1900-1945 | 3 semester credits
An exploration of literature and visual arts of the first half of the twentieth century in the context of the political and cultural shifts created by World Wars I and II, this course examines the emergence of Modernism and the contested cultural ground between the Right and Left, the individual and society, between genders and generations. Divided into four sections, the course will consider the avant-garde of pre-war Europe, World War I, rationality and irrationality in the inter-war period, and World War II and its aftermath. Prerequisite: HU/SS101 and HU/SS 102 or consent of the instructor. Required text: Slaughterhouse-Five (2005) by Kurt Vonnegut, ISBN 0-385-33384-6; Regeneration (1993) by Pat Barker, ISBN 0-452-27607-3; Rites of Spring (2000) by Modris Ecksteins, ISBN 0-395-93758-2.

HU207 Race and Nation: Native American and African American Literature | 3 semester credits
Beginning with the study of African American slave narratives and concluding with contemporary Native American writing students are introduced to Native American and African American literature, and examine basic premises of the American story. Through a close scrutiny of selected works, additional perspective is provided as students examine equally contested versions of both racial and American identity, while examining the role that ethnic literature plays in the reinterpretation of American culture. Offered fall semester alternate years. Prerequisite: HU/SS101 and HU/SS102 or consent of instructor. Required text to be determined.

SS204  Nature and Culture | 3 semester credits
Where does human nature leave off and the natural world begin, and how/where/why do we differentiate between them? The purpose of this class is to study and assess the relationship between human constructs (culture) and the facts of the nonhuman world. How much of what we believe about our relationship to the natural world is simply mythology? Can we accept our placement in the larger scheme of things? How have other cultures engaged with the natural world? These questions will be approached from various points of view: anthropological, historical, scientific, religious, and aesthetic. Offered spring semester, alternate years. Prerequisite: HU/SS101/102 or consent of the instructor. Required text to be determined.

SS206  The Primitive and the “Other” in Culture and Art | 3 semester credits
An examination of the various meanings and uses of the concept of the Primitive, this course discusses its persistence as a paradigm in the modern world, and the role of art in that process. Utilizing primary anthropological, scientific, critical and historical texts, the students will begin with some of the earliest writings from antiquity and continue to discover the “Other” in the 21st century. Offered spring semester alternate years. Prerequisite: HU/SS101 and HU/SS102 or consent of instructor. Required text to be determined.

EC208GL: Drawing and Glass: Iteration, Variation and Translation | 3 semester credits
Referencing the multi-disciplinary approaches of artists such as Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois and William Kentridge, this course will focus on the evolution of ideas and how as artists we translate concepts between media. By working in both a drawing studio and a kiln-glass studio, students will focus on a series of related projects that will explore the ways in which ideas evolve and develop a theme in two distinct media. Working in these two media fosters a dialogue about the meaning of materials. This course will use iteration, variation and translation between media to emphasize a constantly growing creative process. Students will be challenged to critically examine their studio practice in order to find the most essential, translatable concepts. Prerequisite: FDR102, FDR104 and one year (6 semester credits) in student’s concentration. Required text to be determined.

ID202  Attachments and Connections | 3 semester credits
Materials and techniques range from primitive to contemporary, traditional to innovative and temporary to permanent. Methods for connecting these materials include surface bonds; wet and heat activated adhesives; mechanical and structural connections; sewing and other soft material connections; simple woodworking; and basic welding in metal and plastic. This purpose of this course is to present a variety of ways of attaching or connecting various materials to each other or to themselves. Materials and techniques are introduced as tools for developing personal artistic direction. Students will be assigned a research project to broaden their understanding of the art field and or the history of a technique. Through demonstrations, technical and conceptual information and the use of historical and contemporary examples, students will be asked to think critically and inventively about the materials and techniques introduced throughout the semester. Coursework and critiques will emphasize development of the idea, personal expression and technical proficiency. Prerequisite: One year (6 semester credits) in student’s concentration or consent of instructor. Required text to be determined.

ID203  Text and Image | 3 semester credits
The purpose of this class is to explore text and image relationships from historical, conceptual and technical perspectives. Students will investigate the inclusion of text in 2-D, sculptural, installation and time-based arts, read and discuss essays on conceptual and theoretical approaches to the subject, and explore a variety of text-to-surface techniques to add to the technical repertoire of the student. Prerequisite: One year (6 semester credits) of student’s concentration. Required text to be determined.

ID205  Beyond Color Theory | 3 semester credits
Intended to broaden the historical, practical and conceptual knowledge of color as a key element in art making, this course explores the function and effect of color in two-dimensional, sculptural, installation, decorative and utilitarian objects. Topics include the history of color theories, the cultural contexts of color, color and science, symbolism and language. Design experiments with research-based materials and techniques expand the practical and conceptual capabilities of the student. Prerequisite: One year (6 semester credits) in student’s studio concentration. Required text: Chromophobia by David Batchelor, ISBN1861890745, $17.05 or from $9.97 used.

ID207ME  Resins, Moldmaking and Casting Alternative Materials | 3 semester credits
Students will embark on a sculptural exploration of resins, flexible moldmaking, cold casting and basic ferrous metal fabrication. This course will investigate two part resins, including rigid epoxies, flexible silicones and various types of moldmaking: plaster, latex, silicone and alginate. The instructor will lead the class in casting alternative materials such as plaster, concrete, paper and resin (there will be no metal casting). In order to build structural armatures for the castings, the fundamentals of ferrous metal fabrication will be covered: torch cutting, drilling, filing, welding, forming and finishing. Each student will be expected to complete two sculptural projects and multiple samples. Offered spring semester. No prerequisite. Required text to be determined.

ID222PH Digital Media for Artists | 3 semester credits
This project-based course provides students working in any concentration with practical instruction in some of the two-dimensional design and imaging tools available through the Adobe Creative Suite. While students learn to use digital cameras, scanners, and printers, they’ll develop the kinds of individualized workflow strategies needed to incorporate these new tools into their existing creative practices.  As students learn Photoshop, Light Room, and InDesign, they’ll explore some basic studio tools and techniques needed to physically incorporate the fruits of their “virtual” efforts into their studio work. The technical focus of this course is balanced by lectures, readings, discussions, creative projects, and group critiques that encourage students to explore these exciting concepts, tools, and techniques while challenging historical boundaries between mediums. No prerequisite. Required text to be determined.

ID401 Installation Art | 3 semester credits
Installation art is site-specific work that is assembled or constructed for a particular space within a gallery or the landscape. Through a series of projects, students experience first hand the issues of site, scale, context, and meaning. Slide lectures, individual research, and visits to galleries and museums will familiarize the class with the variety of expression possible in this rich art form. This is a 400 level all-school class for CP/BFA students who have completed their 3rd year requirements or have equivalent experience, or permission of instructor. Prerequisite: Two years (12 semester credits) in student’s concentration or consent of instructor. Required text to be determined.

ID403  Production Design | 3 semester credits
Students will explore the issues and challenges of working in multiples with the goal of designing a limited production line of their work. Through research, design and production, students create a prototype “product line” utilizing their individual creativity and skills. They investigate existing markets and production lines, adapting and improvising, jobbing- out and subcontracting, fabricating, packaging and graphic identity, pricing and other related issues. Presentations by working artists and offsite visits will supplement discussion, demonstration and assignments. Prerequisites: Two years (12 credits) in student’s concentration or consent of instructor. Required text to be determined.

MTH202  A History of Math from Babylon to Escher | 3 semester credits
The practice of math, logic and deduction heightens ones perception of reality and stimulates the imagination.  Contemplation of symmetry allows one to glimpse the infinite. We will begin by exploring evidence of pre-Mesopotamian ethno-mathematics and the development of symbolic quantification systems. Thousands of years later humans devised additive, positional numeration systems including Base 10, Babylonian Base 60, and Mayan Base 20.  We will translate between Arabic–Indic Base 10, Cuneiform Base 60 and Mayan Base 20 scripts.  We investigate the history and use of the abacus, a powerful Base 10 computer. Euclidean geometry will be visited in computing area, volume and ratios. Using ruler and compass we construct a clinometer: a primitive device used to determining height and distance. The golden mean, polyhedral nets, platonic solids, translation symmetry and frieze patterns will all be investigated. Lectures reveal historical origins of mathematical concepts, give examples of mathematical theory, and explore methods of solution.  A hands-on lab, where students and instructor work together, follows each lecture to strengthen mathematical concepts.  This physical manifestation of concepts not only facilitates enlightenment but the artistic nature of math is revealed. Required text: All material will be provided by the instructor with additional readings found on reserve in the library and on line.

NS203  Pacific Northwest Plant Ecology | 3 semester credits
We reside in a diverse and dynamic floristic province: The Pacific Northwest. In this course we follow a 200 mile transect and investigate six major plant communities of the Columbia Basin. We begin our journey on the Oregon coast in a temperate rainforest where it can rain four inches in one hour and end in a Juniper/Sagebrush desert where it may rain as little as four inches in one year. With an ethnobotanical history of 13,000 years, we learn how indigenous people utilized the flora that we encounter. Additionally, basic ecological principles and climatic processes that govern patterns observed in nature will be examined. From an applied perspective, it is critical that we understand how ecology works as insights and solutions to many of the environmental issues we are confronted with today may be revealed.  Lectures present concepts and biota, labs are “hands on” using plant material provided to evaluate plant anatomy, to construct diagnostic keys and to construct an illustrated flora of Pacific NW plants. 
No prerequisite. Required texts: Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast— Revised Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon, ISBN-13: 978-1-55105-530-5, $28.952 and Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary 2nd ed.  by James G. Harris,  ISBN: 0964022168.  Provided by instructor and covered by your lab fee.

NS204  History of Plants: Ethnobotany, Shamanism, and Culture | 3 semester credits
Ethnobotany is the study of historical use of plants by native cultures. The field involves a spectrum of inquiry from botanical training for the identification and preservation of plant specimens, exploring the history of plant domestication and conservation of plant genetic resources, to the bioengineering of new crops. In this class we will study plants with significant economic and cultural importance and investigate both their evolutionary and cultural history. Using local and traditional plants we will learn about the history of dye stuff and paper and will extract dyes and make paper. Students will assess medicinal properties of selected native plant species through bio-assay and we will learn about the origins of chocolate, coffee, beans, and corn. We will also explore the historical use of plant alkaloids. Along the way we will learn about plant anatomy, ecological principles, mechanisms of evolution and revelations of the geologic time scale. No prerequisite. Required text to be determined.

PP409  Professional Practices Internship | 1-3 semester credits
Off campus internship; approved by faculty advisor. Prerequisite: Completion of one year of degree or certificate program. See page 48. Required text to be determined.

PP495  Professional Practices | 3 semester credits
Designed for advanced students who are ready to begin a career as a working artist, this course prepares students to function competently in the business area. Topics covered include: professionalism and goal setting; artist’s portfolios; grants; galleries; teaching and other art employment; commissions; project proposal writing; pedestals and wall hanging systems; crating and shipping; insurance, copyrights, contracts, consignment, dispute resolution, forms of doing business and taxes. Prerequisites: BFA/CP students take this course concurrently with BFA Thesis/Certificate Project classes; non-matriculated students must have a fine arts degree or three years work experience and consent of instructor. Required text to be determined.

PP496  Professional Practices | 3 semester credits
Intended for advanced students who are ready to begin a career as a working artist, this course prepares students to function competently in the business area. Topics covered include: artists’ bios and artist statements; press release writing; show announcement and postcards; health hazards and insurance; introduction to web design; and how to set up a studio. Prerequisites: BFA/CP students take this course concurrently with BFA Thesis/Certificate Project classes; non-matriculated students must have a fine arts degree or three years work experience and consent of instructor. Required text to be determined.

PB301 Post Baccalaureate Critique Seminar | 1.5 semester credits
Providing a platform for cross disciplinary interaction within OCAC’s Post Baccalaureate community this seminar involves studio visits, group critiques, and relevant discussions. Students will spend the semester engaged in a critical dialog concerning their work and the work of their peers. Limited to students accepted into the Post Baccalaureate program, this course is required for every semester a student is enrolled in the program. There are no prerequisites. Required text to be determined.

ST401  Senior Seminar I | 3 semester credits
This course positions the fall semester of the thesis year as a transition from assignment-driven coursework to independently generated work. Team-taught by one academic and one studio faculty, the course is a seminar-studio hybrid which emphasizes conceptualization and the exploration of process. Through a combination of directed readings, studio investigations and discussion, students will address aspects of conceptual and material processes culminating in the written and oral articulation of their thesis project in the form of a proposal and the completion of one component of that project.  Prerequisites: Students must have passed pre-thesis review. Required text to be determined.

ST402  Senior Seminar II | 3 semester credits
The second semester of Senior Seminar is devoted to drafting, critiquing, editing and rewriting the thesis paper, and to creating, practicing and polishing the required public presentation of the thesis work. Students will also write artist statements to accompany their thesis artwork. They may also evaluate ongoing thesis work during group studio visits. Required text to be determined. Prerequisite: ST401. Required text to be determined.

TH495  Thesis Studio | 3 semester credits
Students complete thesis work under the supervision of their advisor. Offered fall semester. Prerequisite: Student must have passed pre-thesis review. Required text to be determined.

TH498 Thesis Studio | 6 semester credits
Students complete thesis work under the supervision of their advisor. Offered spring semester. Prerequisite: Student must have passed pre-thesis review. Required text to be determined.

All applicants to the BFA program without one year of transferable college writing classes at a B or better will automatically be enrolled in WR151 or WR152. Applicants for the Certificate in Crafts program will be required to complete a writing sample prior to the first day of classes.

WR151 The Writer’s Craft I | 3 semester credits
Success in the art/craft world today demands not only proficiency in technique, but a clear understanding of ideas and the ability to articulate those ideas to oneself and others. Geared toward today’s working maker, this course covers topics such as expository and persuasive writing, rules of grammar and punctuation, self-editing, reading for analysis, research methods, and conventions of writing college level papers. No prerequisite. Required text: Seeing & Writing 4 by Christine and Donald McQuade, ISBN-10: 0312476043, ISBN-13: 978-0312476045, $50, used for $40.

WR152 The Writer’s Craft II | 3 semester credits
The aim of this course is to continue deepening the craft student’s mastery of research and persuasive writing. Topics covered in this second half of the class include: organizing and managing a research-based essay using the MLA documentation style; making sense of a variety of sources; evaluating the credibility of sources; and understanding the relationships among sources; practicing and perfecting writing skills necessary for research paper writing: paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting, citing and documenting; and demonstrating control of research by approaching subject with original claims rather than simply documenting information from other sources. No prerequisite. Required text to be determined.

WR301 Writing for Artists | 3 semester credits
This is a course devoted to the forms of writing that artists use, find inspiring, or encounter in the course of their work. Students read and emulate models of excellent writing drawn from journals, non-fiction books, reviews and periodicals. Guided by the assumption that writers learn to write through the spontaneous, as well as the deliberate writing act, this course emphasizes learning to edit oneself by listening to the prose of others, as well as by revising one’s own work. Prerequisite: To be taken in the pre-thesis year; non-matriculated students by consent of instructor. Required text to be determined.

WR302 Writing for Artists | 3 semester credits
Encouraging evolution from writing about self in non-arts settings as practiced in WR301, to writing about students’ art and the works of others, this course culminates with the artist’s statement, The thesis paper is included in this course. Prerequisite: WR301, non-matriculated students by consent of instructor. Required text to be determined.

Learn more about the College's programs of study:

Undergraduate programs

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Craft

The Certificate in Craft

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Craft (requires a bachelor's degree)

Graduate programs

Master of Fine Arts in Craft

Collaborative Masters of Fine Arts in Applied Craft + Design




Calendar Events

April 23, 2014 to April 27, 2014
Opening Reception April 23rd | 4-6pm

April 23, 2014

April 26, 2014
5:00 PM


MFA Chair Karl Burkheimer interviews Alumni Josh Smith in Drain Magazine

OCAC Students Selected as Finalists for 2014 NICHE Awards

OCAC Alumna Hilary Pfeifer Featured in American Craft Magazine

Noted contemporary artists Dana Schutz & Ryan Johnson Visit OCAC

Michael Lammers Joins Oregon College of Art and Craft, Portland, Oregon as Chief Financial Officer