Engaged and Public Arts | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Engaged and Public Arts: Degree Information

MCAD emphasizes a collaborative process and working with students from all majors. For this Bachelor of Fine Arts minor, you will take courses in several different areas, including a core focus, adding up to 15 total credits required for graduation. 

Required Courses - These are the core courses that every student takes.

Electives - Throughout your studies you can choose from several studio electives that give you hands-on creative time.  

Humanities and Sciences Electives - These classes round out your experience at MCAD, deepen your creative practice, and fulfill non-studio requirements for a degree.  

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop as individual art makers as well as collaborators through direct experiences with the public and within communities.
  • Learn about the best practices and theories of social science, community art, interventionist art, and civic engagement.
  • Conduct research, fieldwork, and create scholarship in the fields of public and community studies and implement community arts and public art projects.
  • Become informed about the critical dialogues in public and socially engaged art.

Core Required Courses

AH/HS3665 Art in the Cities
3 credits

Art in the Cities explores the relationship between art and urban space with the Twin Cities as its primary site of
investigation. This seminar-style course focuses on current exhibitions and curatorial practices in museums,
galleries, artist-run spaces, and other project spaces located throughout the Twin Cities. In-class discussions
examining the history and contemporary practice and politics of display in urban contexts with some emphasis on
social, public, interventionist, and community-based practices is equally balanced with activities outside the
classroom such as exhibition visits, artist talks, and performances. This course fulfills a Histories, Places, and
Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 or faculty permission

FAS/SC 30 Public Art/Art in Public Places
3 credits

This studio course covers contemporary and historical issues pertaining to art in public places, public art, public process, and multidisciplinary collaboration. Students investigate both “site-specific” and “site as venue” public works through individual and collaborative projects and proposals. All media are considered appropriate for inclusion in the public realm. Design, planning, and presentation techniques include the RFQ, RFP, preparation of proposals, public presentations, design and presentation drawings, scale-model building, site planning, and logistics. Students can create public works to be installed in the MCAD sculpture garden. This course is made possible in part by Donna and Cargill MacMillan Jr.

Prerequisites: One 3000-level course in sculpture, furniture, fine arts studio, or another major as deemed appropriate by faculty

HS 3353 Ethnography for Artists and Designers
3 credits

Ethnography is the primary tool of anthropologists and is a powerful method for analyzing cultural dynamics, objects, and settings. A basic understanding of ethnographic approaches enables artists and designers to work more sensitively, effectively, and ethically in the public sphere. This course introduces a variety of ethnographic methods, including traditional participant observation, life histories, interviewing, visual ethnography, and ethnographic marketing. Students achieve a basic understanding of ethnographic approaches and apply them in their own ethnographic fieldwork. This course fulfills the Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Engaged and Public Arts Minor Electives (select two)

ES 3430 Human Factors
3 credits

Human behavior is at the center of all art, design, and business. This interdisciplinary course combines physical, psychological, social, and cultural aspects of the human animal. Students in this course apply this information to find new ways of expression in their personal work. Throughout the second half of the semester, students test this new knowledge by collaborating with clients on real projects, ranging from product design, to communications, to community and environmental wellness.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

ES 3857 Aesthetics of Sustainability
3 credits

This course looks at how can we use our creative powers to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” in line with the goals of sustainable development. Designed for students from all MCAD disciplines, this course reviews a brief history of sustainability through the lens of creativity and visual aesthetics. Students will examine existing sustainability frameworks that seek to balance the social, environmental, and economic goals of the world we live in. The course also looks at current events and terminology related to climate science, social equity, and the circular economy. Throughout the second half of the semester, students work in teams with clients to find solutions for aspects of sustainability for individuals, citizens, and consumers.

FAS 3020 Installation
3 credits

This class explores space and site as a means of aesthetic communication. Object-based installations, interventionist strategies, and designed or created environments are examined. Topics include systems approach, audience, interactive and experiential work, and documentation as art. All media are considered, including object, image, sound, and language. A variety of ideation techniques are introduced, including traditional maquettes and photo-collage site proposals.

Prerequisites: Foundation: 3D

FAS 3030 The Body Eclectic
3 credits

This is an interdisciplinary problem-solving class based on the theoretical body, rather than the figure, as a conceptual starting point. Topics center around postmodern themes that concern the body as a place for ideation. Students are encouraged to experiment with medium as it relates to their particular areas of interest. Critical readings, discussions, presentations, project proposals, and statements inform assignments.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

FAS 3040 Working with the Collection
3 credits

Working with the Collection is an interdisciplinary studio course that concentrates on the holdings of an individual museum and the artist's response to it. In the first half of the course, students visit with the curators and exhibition designers to understand the process of collecting, and then proceed to work with the study and exhibition collections. The second half of the semester concentrates on studio work in response to the collection, culminating in an exhibition.

Prerequisites: completion of all Foundation-level courses, one 3000-level Fine Arts course (3000-level Fine Arts course may be taken concurrently)

FAS/SC 30 Public Art/Art in Public Places
3 credits

This studio course covers contemporary and historical issues pertaining to art in public places, public art, public process, and multidisciplinary collaboration. Students investigate both “site-specific” and “site as venue” public works through individual and collaborative projects and proposals. All media are considered appropriate for inclusion in the public realm. Design, planning, and presentation techniques include the RFQ, RFP, preparation of proposals, public presentations, design and presentation drawings, scale-model building, site planning, and logistics. Students can create public works to be installed in the MCAD sculpture garden. This course is made possible in part by Donna and Cargill MacMillan Jr.

Prerequisites: One 3000-level course in sculpture, furniture, fine arts studio, or another major as deemed appropriate by faculty

FILM 3020 Documentary Filmmaking
3 credits

Through the production of a series of short films, students explore various forms of documentary production, including newsreel, reportage, cinema-verite, reality television, and modern documentary forms. Students learn how to make films from life and the limits, ethics, and opportunities of depicting reality. Techniques taught include research, preproduction, working with small crews, field video production equipment, sound recording techniques, lighting, and editing. In addition to critiques, discussions, and technical demonstrations, a selection of films are screened and analyzed during the course.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Filmmaking

FILM 3050 Directing for Actors and Acting for Mediamakers
3 credits

Directing Actors is an acting class for directors. Students learn a variety of classic teaching methods including The Method by Stanislavski and contemporary techniques of acting for the camera. Students participate in acting exercises, observe one another’s abilities to stay in the moment, learn the vulnerabilities of being a professional actor, and prepare a complete scene for a final video project.

Prerequisites: Intro to Film, Intro to Animation, or Intro to Comics

GRD 3070 Graphic Design 3
3 credits

Central to graphic design thinking, systems-based design projects have always challenged designers to investigate new and better ways of representing complex information. These design systems are a crucial ingredient in the interdisciplinary practices of branding, interactive design, information design, and mapping. Classroom activities and assignments examine resource development, research analysis, information management, and ideation as parts of a larger whole. Not restricted to any one media, this course encourages students to develop a variety of solutions, guided by critique, individual discussions, and assignments.

Prerequisites: Graphic Design 2, Digital Production

ILL 3020 Concepts and Metaphors
3 credits

The strength of many contemporary illustrations lies in a dynamic concept of metaphor. Through word lists, thumbnail sketches, and research, students expand their ideas to improve their illustration. Students examine art by both historical and contemporary practitioners and create individual images as well as series projects with editorial, advertising, and corporate audiences in mind. Color and media guidelines and techniques are covered via demonstrations. This course encourages further development of skills in both digital and traditional media as well as concepts, research, techniques, craft, and professional presentation.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Illustration

ILL 3050 Editorial Illustration
3 credits

From mainstream to independent magazines, editorial art has made a huge impact on the covers and pages of modern print and web publications. Through lectures and demonstrations students acquire a thorough understanding of the editorial market and its potential for inventive and imaginative images. This course includes illustrating articles related to topics such as culture, health, finance, short story, and nonfiction. Project formats include GIF animated web images, full and half page illustrations, covers, and experimental zines.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Illustration, Concepts and Metaphors, Digital Illustration (Digital Illustration may be taken concurrently)

PH 3035 Documentary Style
3 credits

This course is an introduction to documentary traditions and contemporary considerations in photography.   Students access difficult subject matter and learn the ethics of real-world engagement through several long-term projects undertaken in the course. Students learn to research and write about their subject matter while using DSLR, analog, or video cameras to complete their assignments. Historical and contemporary issues are explored through readings and discussions. Students are evaluated on individual projects, critiques, a final portfolio, discussions, and quizzes.

Prerequisites: Photography 1

PPB 3040 Printmaking and the Public Sphere
3 credits

In this class, students broaden their understanding and practice of printmaking to consider the public sphere as a source of inspiration and site for engagement. Students will be introduced to various print-based approaches to investigating place, from travelogues to capturing trace impressions, from political posters to community-based projects. Beginning with research, interviews, and observation, students will begin to define the parameters and possibilities of art in relationship to everyday life, through simple books, zines and printed documents. As the semester progresses, students will conceive and realize more in-depth projects that utilize and build upon print-based strategies of their own choosing. Students can expect to work collaboratively and gain experience with MCAD’s mobile printing unit.  

Prerequisites: Print Paper Book Techniques or one 3000-level printmaking course

SC 3050 Sculpture Studio: Site and Non-Site
3 credits

In this course, students investigate both site-specific and more ephemeral non-sited works through collaborative and individually proposed projects. Experimental objects, spaces, and processes may include assemblage, documentation, public actions, guerrilla works, or performance. Topics such as the discrete object, situational context, place, community, and personal/public history are discussed in response to peer group review and faculty tutorial engagement. Students examine and challenge ideas of the natural, urban, and technological.

Prerequisites: One sculpture (SC) or fine arts studio (FAS) course

VC 4690 Street Lab
3 credits

This class does not meet at MCAD. It is conducted entirely outside of the school environment. For the duration of the class, the city becomes the studio, where observation, exploration, inspiration, and interventions of varying sorts take place. Students of art and design practicing in any media are encouraged to participate. Individually and as a group, students roam urban and rural environments armed with cameras (photo and video) and other gear (or none at all) that might be useful for creating and documenting/capturing various "engagements." The course is guided by four primary goals: One, to reconsider the definition of the art studio (where art is made vs. where it could be made); Two, to reconsider the definition of artwork (precious art object vs. temporary ephemeral occurrences); Three, to reconsider the differences between life and art (art in your life vs. your life in art); and Four, to directly affect the world with work. Work produced in the above framework may range from manipulation of found, natural, and/or machine-/hand-made objects and materials to temporary installations or sculptures to situations, performances, and actions executed in public spaces.

WMM 3010 Installation and Performance
3 credits

This class offers an in-depth exploration of the art and design concepts related to physical space: whether defined as an art installation, live performance, museum exhibition design, or retail environment. Participants study a variety of points of intersection between human interaction, physical spaces/objects, and technology. A variety of sensing and tracking technologies are surveyed and implemented. High and low technologies are reviewed from the perspective of various modes of artist/performer/audience-customer interaction.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 2

WMM 5040 Advanced Web and Multimedia Environments Seminar
3 credits

In this seminar students expand their understanding of practice within a cross-media platform. Students engage in intensive theoretical and critical studies in tandem with the development of advanced projects. Special emphasis is given to hybrid media and experimental exploration. Given that this course is open to all majors, students have an opportunity to engage and interact with those studying different fields, challenge and expand their knowledge and vocabulary, and gain a deeper understanding of interdisciplinary practice.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 1

AH/HS5332 Native American Art
3 credits

Most Native American tribes do not have a word in their languages for “artist,” yet the arts are a living part of both daily life and ceremonial tradition. Focusing on the works of selected tribes, students in this course look at Native American art, architecture, and aesthetics. Emphasis is placed on the nineteenth century to the present. The impact 37 of outside forces on continuities and changes in traditional forms is also explored. Classes are primarily lecture with some discussion. This course fulfills a Histories, Places, and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently), a 3000-level AH or HS course, or faculty permission

AH/HS3624 Gender, Art, and Society
3 credits

This course focuses on the idea of gender and its impact on the production, consumption, and analysis of art. Course topics may include gender and gender ambiguity in art and visual culture, the shifting definition of the artist in history, institutions that shape artists' outlooks, and feminist and postmodern theories of gender. The relationships among gender, art, and society are examined by focusing on particular topics, such as fetishism and fashion, and these topics are analyzed from historical, theoretical, and cultural perspectives. This course fulfills a Histories, Places, and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2

AH/HS3722 Asian Art History
3 credits

This course examines the art of Asia from its beginnings to the present day. It involves a regional approach, focusing on representative works from India, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. While regional characteristics are emphasized, cross-cultural influences are also studied. Through a variety of media, including sculpture, architecture, and painting, students gain an understanding of the broad themes and concepts that run throughout Asian art. Students consider the role of religion, for example, and gain a basic comprehension of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, Taoism, and Shinto. The structure of the class includes lectures, large and small group discussions, and visits to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. This course fulfills a Histories, Places, and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently), a 3000-level AH or HS course, or faculty permission

AH/HS3728 African American Art
3 credits

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the visual art of African Americans from the Colonial period to the present. The course examines a variety of visual media from painting, sculpture, and photography to popular culture objects and mass media images. In addition, students critically examine the ways in which the constructed meanings of "blackness" intersect with representational practices of gender, sexuality, and class, as well as the training and education of artists, public and private patronage, and the history of arts criticism and art history. Class sessions include both lectures and discussions. This course fulfills a Histories, Places, and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently), a 3000-level AH or HS course, or faculty permission.

AH/HS3729 Art and Globalization in the Atlantic World
3 credits

This course examines the impact and effects of globalization on the visual culture of the Atlantic world (defined by Europe, Africa, and the Americas) from the period of the Columbian encounter to the contemporary moment. Students examine the circulation and exchange of goods, ideas, knowledge, culture, and peoples across the Atlantic world through an investigation of visual representations, performance, and collecting practices. The course narrative is guided by thematic issues of gender, race, the politics of display, and national and cultural identities, tracing the movement of visual cultures across the Atlantic through individual case studies. This course fulfills a Histories, Places and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently), a 3000-level AH or HS course, or faculty permission

ES 3354 Futures for Society and Individuals
3 credits

This course explores the scientific, technological, and social forces that shape society, life, and work.Thinking in systems, students research the existing state of specific topics to develop forecasts for society’s future. The first half of the semester focuses on society while the second half explores framing the individual student’s goals and aspirations.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

HS/ES3370 Funding Creative Ventures: Writing Grants and Project Proposals
3 credits

Funding creative ventures requires developing proposals that are clearly, concisely, and persuasively written. This course covers the essential skills needed for effective proposal writing in creative and commercial settings. Students concept, write, and revise project proposals using grant templates, crowdfunding platforms, and proposal documents as references. Through case studies, students examine various funding channels, then develop project proposals with matching budget projections that are delivered through writing and presentations. This course fulfills the Creative and Professional Writing requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Prerequisites: Writing and Inquiry or permission of faculty

HS/ES3853 Economics for Artists and Designers
3 credits

This course combines basic economic principles with tools from the discipline of urban and regional economics. It focuses on ways in which artists and designers contribute to the prosperity of their city, and shows how their work can contribute to the economic success of potential employers, customers, or clients. This course fulfills a Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning requirement in Humanities and Sciences for BFA students.

HS 3233 Ecological Issues
3 credits

Human populations and cultures have always had an impact on land, climate, and plant and animal species, and in turn, the environment reciprocally has impacted humans and their cultures. In this course, students explore ecological anthropology, which focuses on these complex relationships. Class sessions consist of a mix of lecture and discussion. Students may also go on site visits. This course fulfills the Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

HS 3239 The Human Animal
3 credits

This course explores the ways in which humans imagine and represent themselves as both distinct from and connected to the concept of “animal.” The first part of this course covers anthropomorphism, the human-based perspective that projects “the human image” onto the “animal” world. The second part of this course examines representations of human and animal relationships. In the third part of this course, students read works by writers who explore the process of human-into-animal transformation and the animal-human hybrid. The exploration of the relationship between the animal and the human is both literary and philosophical. Class sessions are primarily discussion-oriented with some lectures. This course fulfills the Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

HS 3317 Myth, Ritual, and Symbolism
3 credits

By examining myth/ritual and its symbolization process, this course explores the significance of myth—spanning from ancient Greek stories to modern comics. Scholarly theories, especially from the social sciences, on the origins of mythology are emphasized. The course examines cross-cultural as well as comparative examples of myth, ritual, and symbolism from contemporary fine arts and popular culture. Class sessions are a mix of lecture and discussion. This course fulfills the Scientific and Economic Systems requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

HS 3523 An Ethical Life
3 credits

What does it mean to lead “an ethical life”? This course covers the writings of ethicists from Aristotle to the present and helps students understand what they know and value. Students are challenged to realize and to act upon the principles of an ethical life in their personal and professional development. To these ends, individuals in this course explore the so-called enduring questions of truth, good, and beauty through close readings of key texts from the philosophical traditions of various cultures. Students at times employ a comparative approach, situating the Greeks as well as Enlightenment figures in relation to historical and emerging traditions, both in Western and non-Western contexts. This course fulfills a Histories, Places and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

HS 3630 Race and Ethnicity in the United States: A History
3 credits

Race and ethnicity have played significant, complicated, and more often than not misunderstood roles in the United States’ history. This course surveys the ways race and ethnicity have been constructed and understood by Americans from the colonial era to the present, focusing on the ways that class, gender, culture, and politics, as well as biology, have defined race and the way race and ethnicity have supported ideologies that have been used to both empower and subordinate the peoples of the United States. This course fulfills a Histories, Places and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Total Credit Hours
15