Santa Fe University of Art and Design

Until recently I have been snootily dismissive of for-profit colleges, but I must eat my words, for now I know Santa Fe University of Art and Design. I spent two amazing days on campus in late April and was beyond impressed. For the right student—likely one who is passionate about creativity, and ready for an intense hands-on learning experience—this could well be nirvana.

I was fortunate to be one of forty-some educational consultants, high school guidance counselors, and art teachers invited for an in-depth introduction to the college, and I dare say that every person in the group was quite amazed at all that we saw and experienced. SFUAD is the former College of Santa Fe, reborn from the ashes of the former school, which fell on hard times and closed for a while. Following a commitment from state and local stakeholders, a new partnership with the Laureate International University system, and a rebirth in its new university guise, this is now a thriving and truly exciting school.

Programs at SFUAD include art, contemporary music, creative writing and literature, dance, graphic design, moving image arts (film/video), performing arts, and photography.  We got up close and personal with the students and their work and were treated to musical performances, a dance number, a theatre piece (from The Book of Mormon), and toured every building, where we saw students at work on all manner of interesting projects. The final evening of our time there included a chance to attend a theatrical production (Once On This Island), a student BFA show, and an exciting tradition in its third year, called Outdoor Vision Fest, where student multimedia work is projected at night on the walls of the Visual Arts Center, an architecturally intriguing campus building. All of Santa Fe is invited to this increasingly popular event, which this year featured live music and food trucks as well as the visual extravaganza.

SFUAD is a happening place, and fits well into the arts milieu of Santa Fe. The film school is the jewel in the crown of campus as it also hosts major professional productions, including acclaimed films like True Grit and No Country For Old Men, as well as the A&E TV series Longmire (we were allowed on the Longmire set during our visit). What this means is that film students have a chance to intern and be exposed to fully professional industry connections and experiences, even as beginning undergraduates.  Amazingly, film students are given a Canon T4i DSLR camera with a zoom lens at the start of their enrollment, free of charge!

Three things in particular stand out to me about this school. One is that faculty members are working creative professionals who are well known and respected in their fields. I noted from the school website that Creative Writing and Literature Department Chair Dana Levin was a member of the jury pool for the National Book Awards in Poetry last year. Vice President for Academic Affairs Gerry Snyder is a painter who has exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC, the Museum Gallery of Modern Art in Sophia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere. This sort of distinction seems to be true of all the faculty chairs.

Another standout feature stems from the school’s connection with Laureate, which provides for study abroad opportunities at other Laureate institutions worldwide, including Domas Academy in Milan, Italy, where Santa Fe students can get a taste of fashion design, interior design, car design (!), and urban architectural design. Media Design School in Auckland, New Zealand, which specializes in digital design and 3D animation, is yet another option.

A final standout feature is the remarkably collaborative and interactive way in which the whole place works, involving both students and faculty members. We repeatedly heard from students and our tour guides that the average student makes connections across campus with fellow students in other disciplines and majors, and they develop working relationships, contributing to one another’s projects just as professionals do in real life. What a novel concept!

To see images of last year’s OVF, click or copy here: