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School of Education

Overview: Art–B.S. and Art–BFA

Programs in the Department of Art allow students to build on existing academic and technical abilities while fostering a thorough understanding of the societal and cultural conditions underscoring the current creative landscape. Students enjoy the close-knit atmosphere of a department that prides itself on having a very low teacher-to-student ratio, with an average class size of 10–12 students.

Students complete a rigorous foundation program, often as part of the Contemporary Art & Artists First Year Interest Group program, before branching out into one or more specialized areas such as book arts, ceramics, cultural studies, digital art, drawing, glass and neon, graphic design, metalworking/jewelry, painting, papermaking, performance, photography, all types of printmaking, sculpture, theory, video, and woodworking.

Literacy in, and mastery of, a chosen area of focus enables students to become leaders in numerous creative fields as art educators, graphic and media designers, photographers, entertainment industry professionals, artisan specialists, community arts directors, as well as world-class fine artists. Degree programs are highly ranked at both the national and the international level, attracting students with excellent academic credentials and a love of art and design. The Department of Art believes that hard-working students who learn to harness and nurture their creative energies today will be the people influencing progress tomorrow.

The art department has a remarkable history. UW–Madison was the first university to create a glass-blowing laboratory for art students. The printmaking programs are consistently ranked first in the country and the art metals program is currently ranked third. A large number of undergraduates go on to study in some of the most prestigious MFA programs in the country, and to exhibit their art in regional, national, and even international venues. The school's large faculty of world-class artists is committed to the development of their undergraduate students.

The new Art Lofts Building houses state-of-the-art ceramics, glass, papermaking and bronze foundry facilities and a large art performance space. 

Art students may choose from among three degree programs: the Bachelor of Science in Art, the Bachelor of Fine Arts, or the Bachelor of Science in Art Education. The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree program in Art differs from the B.S.–Art degree by requiring a larger number of studio and aesthetic courses, thereby eliminating the requirement of additional nonstudio elective credits. This degree program is most often pursued by students who wish to develop a refined visual art portfolio in preparation for a career as a professional artist and/or for graduate study. The Bachelor of Science in Art Education degree program certifies students to teach in both elementary and secondary schools; more information is available here

Foundations Program

All first-year art students begin with the Foundations Program, a series of related studio and lecture courses to prepare them for further study in studio art and design. They learn the fundamentals of art through investigation of formal, technical, and conceptual issues. These interrelated classes are designed to be taken concurrently. Through these shared experiences, first-year students form a peer community that often continues throughout their undergraduate careers.

Freshmen majoring in art enroll in two foundational studio courses and one lecture course for each of their first two semesters. The lecture classes expose, broaden, and challenge students' understanding of contemporary art production. The Foundations of Contemporary Art and Current Directions in Contemporary Art courses introduce students to historical, thematic, critical, and theoretical issues, contextualizing and augmenting their studio assignments and expanding their verbal and visual vocabulary.

Degree Program Components

The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree program in Art has four components: 

  • Liberal Studies courses expose students to a broad range of academic disciplines.
  • Aesthetics courses offer study of the history of art and contemporary developments in the visual arts.
  • Major requirements permit in-depth studies of studio art. After taking courses in the Foundations area, students complete coursework in each of the four studio areas: 2D, 3D, 4D, and Graphics. B.S.–Art majors are required to reach an advanced level in at least one studio discipline. More information on studio focus areas is available here.
  • Elective credits to pursue individual areas of interest, such as a second major or additional studio credits. Many B.S.–Art students complete an additional major from the College of Letters & Science. Some use this major to complement their Art preparation (e.g., focusing on written communication for an eventual carreer in advertising), or a subject that complements their interest in art. Students interested in medical illustration, for example, may wish to take courses in the biological sciences. Others select majors that reflect interests completely unrelated to art.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree program includes liberal studies courses, aesthetics coursework, and major requirements. The large number of required studio courses eliminates the elective credits available in the B.S. option. BFA–Art students take at least 72 studio credits; by comparison, B.S.–Art students complete at least 45 studio credits (43 prior to summer 2012) but no more than 58 studio credits. BFA students are required to reach an advanced level in a minimum of two studio disciplines.

Program Admission

Incoming freshmen and transfer students enter directly into the B.S.–Art program upon admission to UW–Madison. No portfolio review or other admission process is required, although applicants are encouraged to submit a portfolio to the Department of Art at the same time the online application is completed through the Admissions office. Current UW–Madison students seeking to enter the B.S.–Art program must apply for admission to the program; a minimum 2.5 grade point average is required.

Students interested in the BFA–Art degree program enroll first in the B.S.–Art degree program (ART classification) while completing prerequisites. Applicants for the BFA program must have a 3.0 minimum GPA in studio courses and have completed, or be enrolled in, Art 107, 104, 108, 112, 208, 212, and one course in each of the 2D, 3D, 4D, and graphics areas. A portfolio review is also part of the selection process. Students will typically apply to the BFA program in their sophomore or junior year and must have attained a minimum of sophomore standing. Application may be made during the semester that the required courses will be completed.

Prospective Transfer Students.

Prospective transfer students should meet as early as possible with the art program advisor and with an advisor at Education Academic Services (see contact information under Advising, below). Studio and aesthetics coursework taken at another institution may need to be evaluated by the art program advisor or a faculty member in the art department.


Prospective off-campus and on-campus B.S.–Art and BFA–Art majors will meet with the undergraduate art program advisor, Julie Ganser, 6241 Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street. Call 608-262-1660 for an appointment. To confer with an Education Academic Services advisor, make an advising appointment by phone at 608-262-1651 or visit the office at Room 139 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall.

Incoming freshmen discuss program options with advisors during the Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) Program. At SOAR, advisors help students select courses and plan their first semesters at UW–Madison. Recognizing that students often have many academic interests and more than one possible career goal, School of Education advisors help students explore options and maintain academic flexibility.

Transfer students also attend SOAR, but have specific days reserved for this group of students. Due to the specific needs of transfer students, the time at SOAR is organized differently than it is for freshmen. In the School of Education attention focuses on each student's transfer coursework and how it fits into UW-Madison's program requirements.

During the SOAR program, the School of Education reserves some of the days for students interested in Art. While not restricted to these scheduling options, students are encouraged to attend on these days.