Academy of Art University Provides Opportunities for Students to Gain Real Life Experience in Art Careers

By Ernest Hamilton , Updated Apr 16, 2021 10:37 AM EDT
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Academy Of Art University Spring 2016 Collections - Runway
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Designers Bom Kim (L) and Liz Li walk the runway at the Academy Of Art University Spring 2016 Collections fashion show at The Arc, Skylight at Moynihan Station on September 11, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Randy Brooke/Getty Images for Academy of Art University)

(Photo: Randy Brooke / Stringer)

Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California does things differently than other art schools. Recognizing the need for students to gain real-world experience, the academy connects students with industry professionals. Students gain many benefits by interacting directly with professionals already working in their chosen industry like the opportunity to gain valuable feedback by completing real projects for existing clients of their partnership organizations.

Academy of Art University also provides students with options for networking, mentoring relationships, and internships. Many graduates of the academy have found jobs in their field as a direct result of their collaboration with professionals in their industry. The Academy's partners understand the importance of giving up-and-coming young professionals a competitive edge upon graduation.

The Corporate Partnership Program at the Academy of Art University reflects its interdisciplinary approach to real-world learning. All programs provide students with the opportunity to accelerate their skills by taking on projects with real deadlines from actual companies.

Current Real-World Partnerships

The Academy offers 22 art-related degree programs ranging from art history to game development to web design. Administrators at Academy of Art University have established partnerships with working professionals in numerous industries to provide collaborative opportunities for students across many disciplines. Here are highlights several of those partnerships:

Bayview Commons at Hunter's Point: During the fall of 2020, students enrolled in Academy of Art University's Online Architecture School created a new design for a courtyard in Bayview Commons Housing Development located at Hunter's Point. The fifth-year students from the online architecture program worked in close collaboration with the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation for the duration of the project. The courtyard at the housing complex was underused at the time the architecture students took on the project.

Mimi Sullivan, the Executive Director of the academy's School of Architecture, arranged meetings between the students and people living in the 30 units at Bayview Commons. Because 29 children live at the apartment complex, the residents and students quickly agreed that the redeveloped courtyard should provide a safe and accessible play area for them. 

Online architecture students then designed modular and flexible pieces to use as play equipment, seating spaces, and a garden. They also designed a track that surrounds the outside of the old courtyard. After receiving approval for the designs, students fabricated equipment for the new courtyard from nylon, cedar planks, steel, and PVC. Because of the pandemic, architecture students had to collaborate with parents and children primarily through Zoom meetings. The new play area at Bayview Commons opened at the end of 2020.

Five Keys Home Free Facility: Students from the Academy's School of Architecture and Design recently completed a collaboration with a San Francisco-based non-profit called Five Keys Schools and Programs. Not only did the students gain valuable architecture and design experience, but they had the opportunity to contribute to a valuable cause as well. 

The students and non-profit agency worked together to create a new home for female survivors of domestic violence wrongfully convicted of a crime. Over one semester, the students transformed the existing Treasure Island apartment complex into a peaceful halfway house for 12 women who had recently left prison and needed to re-adjust to society.

Potrero Power Station Design: Students in the Academy's School of Landscape Architecture created designs they presented to the Potrero Power Station in early 2021. What made this feat especially impressive was that the students completed all collaboration over Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

London Breed, Mayor of San Francisco, approved the redevelopment of a complex on 23rd Street spanning 29 acres in the spring of 2020. The complex currently contains 2,400 residential housing units, six acres of public park space, and several recreational and tourist areas. Students enrolled in the Habitable Cities course used immersive design studio applications to prepare their pitch to the city.

School of Architecture Director Jeff Lane describes the Potrero Power Station design project as the most complex one he has ever overseen. Besides the limitations of the pandemic, students had to work closely with regulatory agencies because the current space is open to the public. Agencies and organizations the students collaborated with include:

  • Bay Conservation and Development Commission

  • Landscape architects employed by the City of San Francisco

  • Port of San Francisco

  • San Francisco City Historian Society

  • San Francisco City Planning Department

  • San Francisco Parks Alliance

The School of Landscape Architecture students presented their final class review on December 20, 2020.

Studio X: This partnership is open to students enrolled in Academy of Art University's School of Animation and Visual Effects. Students work with real clients in the animation industry to complete projects for real clients who expect to receive the finished work by a firm deadline. Past and current academy students have gained credits with the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) before graduation. 

Subaru: Students enrolled in the School of Industrial Design, along with select students enrolled in other majors at the academy, work with auto manufacturer Subaru to create a new design of the car. Subaru employees guide students and offer feedback as they move through the process of pitching an idea for a new brand and create the design details. The final part of the collaboration is when the student team presents their work to the Subaru design team.

Young & Hungry: Open to students from the School of Advertising, Young & Hungry is an onsite advertising agency operated by students. School of Advertising professors modeled Young & Hungry after a cross-section of modern agencies in the San Francisco area. As with other partnerships, School of Advertising students work on real projects with real clients. 

Academy of Art University has rented space to host Young & Hungry at the Fisherman's Wharf Cannery Building. Young & Hungry is a class, and its students collaborate with professionals as well as other students from these disciplines:

  • Advertising

  • Interior Architecture and Design

  • Fashion

  • Illustration

  • Motion Pictures and Television

  • Photography

  • Web Design and New Media

Clients that students enrolled in the Young & Hungry class have worked with in the past include BMW, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, and Ubisoft.

How to Contact Academy of Art University

Potential students interested in learning more about the Academy's Corporate Sponsorship Program, degree programs, or short-term educational opportunities can request information online or contact the academy directly at 415-237-2222.

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