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10 Summer Art Courses for High School Students

Art and design are fields that are constantly evolving, with a multitude of avenues within each, and are gaining more and more relevance every day. If you’re keen to explore these fields, or just interested in taking a peek, you must consider doing a summer course to hone your skills and build your portfolio, or even just to explore an art form.  

These courses will also allow you to try out your potential college major or path, in a fairly lower stakes situation. Not to mention, college admission committees are highly attentive to skill, initiative, and enthusiasm, all of which you can enhance through a summer course and its intensive and focused environment. 

Universities and institutes reflect the multifaceted nature of art and design, offering courses across disciplines. Whether it’s the fine arts, or an intersection with other visual arts and product design, you’ll find a wide range of opportunities. But you don’t need to look further, because we’ve curated this list of varied, yet strong summer art courses ideal for high school students! 

Location: New York University (NYU) campus, New York City, NY. This is a residential program, housing in an NYU Student Residence Hall is mandatory.

Eligibility: Students aged 15-18 in grades 10-12 can apply.

Application Deadline: February 15, 2024 (financial aid and international student deadline) | March 1, 2024 (final deadline)

Program Dates: July 7, 2024 - August 3, 2024

Cost: $7,172 (this includes tuition, housing, meals, and program fees)

Financial Aid: Scholarships are available. Information on this will be sent to the students who apply before the financial aid deadline.

Every year, 54 students are selected for NYU’s Summer Art Intensive and divided into 3 cohorts that take studio classes together. Students will interact with a wide variety of materials and technology (like textiles and laser cutting), build on their portfolios, and interact with practicing professionals! Faculty from NYU’s Art Department and visiting professionals teach classes and seminars, with students getting a chance to work on studio projects, visit the city’s art studios and institutions, and work with new materials and technologies. Painting, digital art, and sculpture are some classes on offer.

Location: UCLA campus, Los Angeles, CA. Virtual, in-person and residential options are offered.

Eligibility: Students who will be in grades 9-12 in spring 2024 can apply.

Application Deadline: June 1, 2024

Dates: Applicants can choose one or more of the following sessions.

  • Session A: June 24, 2024 - July 6, 2024 (virtual)

  • Session B: July 7, 2024 - July 20, 2024 (in-person with mandatory housing)

  • Session C: July 22, 2024 - August 2, 2024 (in-person commuter)

Cost: Program fee to be decided + $461 estimated fees for registration and documentation. Housing fees (if applicable) will be included in the program fee.

Financial Aid: Full and partial scholarships are available through UCLA’s Summer Scholars Support Program. Apply by March 15, 2024 to be considered.

UCLA’s Art Summer Institute is a selective 3-unit course that involves daily studio sessions, guest and faculty lectures, critiques, and meetings with faculty. Students are exposed to multiple media, art practices, interpretive methods, as they build their portfolios. As part of this intensive course, students must choose one (or two) of these specialization tracks: drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video art and experimental animation, and writing for artists. You will be exposed to a range of media and contemporary art practices during this course.

Students will need to arrange for their own materials, although the program will provide software licenses if needed.

Location: Parsons School of Design (Greenwich Village), New York City, NY

Eligibility: High schoolers aged 16-18 can apply.

Application Deadline: April 24, 2024 (April 1 for International students)

Dates: July 8, 2024 - July 26, 2024.

Cost: $5,145 tuition + $245 university fee + housing fees (if applicable) to be decided

Financial Aid: Limited tuition-only scholarships are available. The deadline to submit the scholarship form is February 11, 2024.

The Parsons School of Design is a highly coveted design institute located in New York, some of its notable alumni being Marc Jacobs, Robert Wong, Tom Ford, Paul Rand, and Mara Hoffman. This 3-week, 3-credit, on-campus course provides a chance to learn from the institute’s renowned faculty and their guest speakers, who are usually professionals from the industry.

One of the courses on offer is the Animation Studio in which students learn about the principles of animation and storytelling to equip themselves to create graphic novels, cartoons, movies, and videos. Students will go through the entire cycle—from conception to the final piece—as part of this course. They will also learn to use tools like Adobe Creative Cloud.

The course further includes skill-building and project-based learning, art design field trips, and portfolio reviews. Students can also consider other courses this program offers.

Location: Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) campus, Providence, RI

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors aged 16-18 can apply.

Application Deadline: Applications open on November 14, 2023, with no mentioned deadline. Decisions are announced in late January.

Dates: June 29, 2024 - August 3, 2024

Cost: $11,350 (residential program) | $8,715 (commuter program)

Financial Aid: Full and partial scholarships are available for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The scholarship application deadline is February 8, 2024.

Ceramics is one of the popular choices students opt for at the RISD Pre-Collegiate Residential Summer Intensive. In this course, students will learn about the science behind clay as a material. They will brainstorm a concept, construct their pieces with hand-building and wheel techniques, and finally add finishing touches using surface treatments.

In addition, all students will need to take three foundation courses—Drawing Foundations, Design Foundations, and Critical Studies in Art.

The pre-college program accepts 550 students every summer. Students will participate in day-long studio sessions, field trips, visits to the Nature Lab and RISD Museum, lectures and seminars, critiques, and projects. The program offers other courses too that students can consider.

Location: Pratt Institute campus, Brooklyn, NY. This is a commuter program.

Eligibility: All students in grades 9-12 can apply.

Application Deadline: Registrations open in April 2024, and seats are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Dates: Held over 10 days in July (tentative, based on previous years dates)

Cost: $395 + additional fees

Financial Aid: Need-based scholarships are available.

Pratt Institute’s Summer Scholars courses are designed to be open, immersive, collaborative, and practical. Faculty from the Schools of Art, Architecture, and Design teach the classes while also encouraging project-based learning.

The painting course offered as part of this program allows students to explore and experiment with various painting approaches using water-based materials. Students will learn about diverse processes and concepts involved in painting while also building a solid portfolio throughout the course.

Courses on object drawing, figure drawing, and architecture are also offered!

Location: Hybrid (online + Brown University campus, Providence, RI)

Eligibility: All students in grades 9-12 (open to beginners and experienced artists) can apply.

Application Deadline: May 10, 2024

Dates: June 24, 2024 - July 19, 2024 (4 weeks)

Cost: $5,108 (additional fees may apply)

Financial Aid: Merit and need-based scholarships are available.

In this course, students will examine and discuss the meanings of justice and the activist potential and function of artistic and creative movements. How art can contribute to advocacy and social change and the responsibilities artists carry, are some questions raised in this course.

Students will participate in daily creative workshops, reading and writing assignments, and online discussions. The course also includes exposure and access to new tools and techniques, using which students will then create an original piece of art in any format of their choice, such as image/film/visual art, performance art, poetry/creative writing/spoken word, sound/music, and more.

Location: Columbia University campus, New York, NY

Eligibility: Domestic or international students entering or enrolled in grades 11 or 12 can apply.

Application Deadline: February 1, 2024 (early registration deadline) | March 4, 2024 (residential program deadline) | April 1, 2024 (commuter program deadline)

Dates: June 24, 2024 - July 12, 2024 (Summer A) | July 16, 2024 - August 02, 2024 (Summer B). Students can choose between the two.

Cost: Commuter: $6,300 (program fees) + $175 ( equipment, facilities, field trips) | Residential: $12,449 + $175

Financial Aid: Limited need-based scholarships are available to NYC residents who participate in the commuter program. The deadline to apply is March 4, 2024.

Drawing: Eye and Idea explores drawing using both observation and imagination as methods to learn traditional drawing techniques. The course includes studio work, outdoor drawing, museum visits, individual and group critiques, and seminars. Students also learn how they can prepare their portfolios for college.

Assignments are an important part of this course, with experimentation with material being a key element. Composition, charcoal and pencil usage, wet media, graphic drawing, color theory, and optical illusions are some assignment themes that students can expect. The course concludes with a group show.

Location: Online

Eligibility: Students in grades 11 and 12 can apply.

Application Deadline: March 5, 2024 (note that the priority deadline has passed)

Dates: July 1, 2024 - July 19, 2024 (3 weeks)

Cost: $4,635

Financial Aid: Several merit and need-based scholarships are available.

The Contemporary Art course offered by the University of Chicago’s Summer Session program is an introductory course focusing on ways to speak about contemporary art in the United States. The course will take students through the 20th and 21st centuries and will take on different themes for each module, such as the scandal of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain in 1917 to the rise of Beeple’s NFTs.

Some art formats this course will focus on include pop art, public art, AI images, readymade art, conceptual art, performance art, internet art, and environmental art.

Note: You’ll be learning with undergrad and grad students! 

Location: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Eligibility: Students who have completed grades 8-12 are eligible.

Application Deadline: Applications open soon, although the exact dates aren’t available yet.

Dates: Courses run for a week at a time between June 24, 2024 and August 9, 2024. Students can register for multiple courses.

Cost: $450 per week. Students will need to arrange for housing (if applicable) and travel themselves.

Financial Aid: Need and merit-based scholarships are available with applications due at least 7 days before the first class. Members and students who register for at least three courses can avail a 10% discount.

The one-week summer intensives at PAFA, open to artists at all levels of expertise, includes mentorship and training by experienced faculty, discussions, demonstrations, studio sessions, small group sessions, 1-on-1 guidance, and field trips. Course offerings include drawing, painting, portrait drawing and painting, and drawing for comics. Students can earn 1 college credit for each course they attend.

Location: Virtual

Eligibility: All high schoolers are eligible to apply.

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Dates: Self-paced (approximately 17 hours)

Cost: Students can audit the course for free. There is a fee if students wish to earn a certificate upon completion.

Financial Aid: Financial aid is available. 

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) hosts virtual courses as part of its teaching and outreach program. These are all available for students to take on the Coursera platform, with Seeing Through Photographs being one of them.

In this course, students will learn about artists’ processes and choices that go into taking a photograph, while examining the relationship between a photographer’s subject. Students will explore how photographs as objects and as images are both distinct. Students will also focus on the context of photographic images and how it determines their production, circulation, and reception. There are 7 modules included in this course, and each module concludes with an assessment.

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about art and research, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.



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