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Top 10 Art & Design Summer Programs for High Schoolers

6 minute read

If you’re a high schooler who’d rather be in the painting studio than the biology lab, you might find yourself thinking about how to keep up your artistic practice when summer rolls around. You might even be considering applying to art schools, for college, but want to make sure you’ll get the most out of your experience there, personally and creatively.

Attending a summer program that is focused on art and design could be a great option if you want to continue your fine arts projects, or explore new techniques over the summer. There are also pre-college programs designed to give you a taste of what your first year could be like if you decide to enroll at a fine arts college or university.

As an artist working across North America and Europe, I’ve put together a list of the top 10 art and design summer programs for high school students to consider in 2024.

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What are the 10 Best Art & Design Summer Programs for High Schoolers?

1. Paris College of Art Summer Program

  • Location: Paris (France) or online

  • Length of program: 2 weeks

  • Eligibility: ages 16 and up

  • When to apply: starting from mid-November

  • Tuition: € 2250 - € 2650

  • Language of instruction: English

  • More information: https://www.paris.edu/programs/summer-3/

PCA’s summer program is the only one on this list that is outside of the United States. Although it is in Paris, PCA is actually a U.S. institution, and all of the courses are taught in English: no French language experience is required.

Although I have never been affiliated with them, I have actually spent a lot of time at the Paris College of Art (PCA). I moved to Paris a couple of years ago for an artist residency, and at that time, some of PCA’s MFA students were also residing at the same foundation. Over the course of that year, I ended up collaborating extensively with an artist in their Transdisciplinary New Media program who now teaches some of their pre-college and undergraduate courses. Having access to their studio space was a fantastic resource for developing my artistic practice in the field of sound art. I highly recommend you check PCA out!

For their summer pre-college program, the available classes include:

  • Fashion Illustration

  • Sensorial Perception of Space

  • Botanics, Drawing, and Printmaking

  • Creative Flow

  • Paris in Black & White

  • Paris Fashion Week: Street Style Fashion Photography

  • Writing the Short Film

  • Intro to Screenwriting

  • Contemporary Illustration: Create your Paris Portfolio

  • Drawing from Architecture and Interior Design

  • and more. 

Students are housed in dormitory-style rooms in the center of Paris, in between Place de la République and Père-Lachaise cemetery.

2. Interlochen Summer Arts Camp

Interlochen is one of the most well-known names in American arts education. Their summer arts program doubles as a school environment and an outdoor/nature camp. With programs in visual arts, creative writing, dance, film & new media, music, and theatre, students learn and practice alongside peers in other disciplines. Personally, I think this is a huge point in favor of Interlochen. Working within an interdisciplinary environment generates exciting possibilities for creation and collaboration. In fact, most of my own work is interdisciplinary (combining sound art, music, sculpture, and video).

3. Cleveland Institute of Art Pre-College Program

Through the Cleveland Institute of Art’s pre-college program, high school students have the opportunity to experience a taste of art school for either two or four weeks. Participants have the option to stay for session 1, session 2, or both. 

Classes offered last year included:

  •  2D Design: Color + Form

  • Animation; Digital Painting; Illustration

  • Life Sciences Illustration

  • Painting

  • Sculpture + 3D Design

  • Video + Digital Cinema

  • 3D Modeling for Inventive Design

  • Animation

  • Craft + Design: Ceramics + Glass, Jewelry + Metals

  • Foundation in Observational Drawing

  • Game Design

  • Illustration

  • Painting

  • Photography

  • Printmaking

4. School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Early College Program Summer Institute

SAIC is one of the most prestigious schools for art and design in the country. Their rigorous pre-college program includes several options for session dates in 2024:

  • Session 1: June 17–28 (2 weeks)

  • Session 2: July 1–12 (2 weeks)

  • Session 3: July 15–26 (2 weeks) 

  • Session 4: July 1–26 (4 weeks)

  • Session 5: July 29–August 2 (1 week)

5. Cornell Precollege: Art as Experience Summer Programs

“Art as Experience” is the summer art program at Cornell Precollege, hosted at the Cornell College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. The program has not yet published its course offerings for 2024, but the options in 2023 included the following classes:

  • Drawing, Photography, and Digital

  • Transmedia: Image, Sound, Motion

  • Sculpture Art in Three Dimensions

  • Photography

Explore the Fine Arts through research

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6. MIAD Pre-College Program

  • Location: Milwaukee, WI

  • Length of program: 2 -3 weeks

  • Eligibility: grades 9 - 12

  • When to apply: May 1 (April 1 deadline for scholarship eligibility)

  • Tuition: $1,730 (core) - $2,065 (advanced)

  • More information: https://ycp.miad.edu/pre-college/ 

The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design is an undergraduate fine arts school with a robust pre-college program (weekends or summer) for high school students. Their summer program is broken down into two tracks:

  • Core Studio Concepts, July 8 - 19, 2024

  • Advanced Studio Concepts, July 8 - 26, 2024

The Core Studio Concepts session serves as a broad introduction to the fundamentals of art and design. Participants explore various topics, including issues of composition in two and three dimensions, form, design, and color.

On the other hand, the selective Advanced Studio Concepts program is designed to give participants an introduction to the student experience within an art school. They work on questions relating to contemporary art and design, media, materials, influences, and processes.

7. Savannah College of Art and Design: Rising Star Program

The 2024 edition of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Rising Star Program will run from June 16 to July 19. Rising high school seniors who are admitted to the program have the opportunity to experience college-level coursework at either the Savannah or the Atlanta campus. The many course offerings for 2024 include:

  • Sewing Technology for Accessory Design 

  • Introduction to Architecture

  • Fashion Aesthetics and Style

  • and more

8. UCLA Art Summer Institute

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA, or online

  • Length of program: 2 weeks

  • Eligibility: grades 8 - 12 and ages 14 to 18

  • When to apply: early June deadlines depending on the session, mid-March for scholarship eligibility

  • Tuition: varies

  • More information: https://summer.ucla.edu/program/art-summer-institute/

The UCLA Art Summer Institute invites high school students to participate in person or online through one of their two, two-week summer sessions. The schedule focuses on daily studio sessions guided by the principal faculty members and world-renowned guest artists.

9. NYU-Steinhardt High School Summer Art Intensive

The High School Summer Art Intensive at NYU Steinhardt is a pre-college program that prepares students for enrolling in a fine arts program at the university level. Each participant creates a new body of work during the session while learning about the NYU art department and what it’s like to work as an artist in New York City. All students live on-campus in the East Village throughout the session.

10. NYC Summer Arts Institute

The NYC Summer Arts Institute is completely free for students entering grades 8-12 in New York City public schools. Participants can study dance, theater, vocal music, instrumental music, visual art, or film with educators from across the school system and through master classes from guest artists.

Are the Other Art & Design Opportunities for High School Students?

Enrolling in any of the programs listed above would give you a rewarding experience that will help you develop your artistic practice during summer break. However, if you are thinking more in terms of an independent project (including artistic creation and/or research), Polygence can match you with an expert mentor to guide you through that project from anywhere in the world! Want to paint from a rocky beach? Or take photos while hiking through the mountains? Want to conduct artistic research within your home community? With Polygence, you can design and complete a project on your terms. All you need is occasional internet access to meet with your mentor via Zoom on your schedule.

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