LSU College of Art & Design Integrates Experience, Engagement and Culture with Quality Education

The LSU College of Art & Design, Louisiana's foremost school for the fine arts, art history and the design professions, has had yet another award-winning year in 2011.

As the largest art department in Louisiana and the fourth-largest major at LSU, the School of Art brings together more than 35 full-time faculty members and 500 undergraduate and graduate students to explore and embrace stylistic freedom, while offering specific concentrations and small studio courses that give the school an intimate feel.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

One of the university's 10 senior colleges, the College of Art & Design is a community in which faculty and students often work collaboratively on projects to share ideas across disciplines. And with many students, faculty and alumni of the college winning awards this year from organizations including the Louisiana Board of Regents, the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Interior Design Excellence Awards, its programs have been recognized as some of the best in the nation.

"Our mission includes educating a diverse population in a very special learning community," said Ken Carpenter, interim dean of the college. "This experience produces artists, designers and scholars whose creativity contributes in a multitude of remarkable ways to a better society."

While the college's roots trace back as far as 1933, it has continued to evolve. Currently, various renovation projects are underway to improve the college's many facilities. These include recently completed and ongoing capital improvements in the Art Building and Atkinson Hall, which houses the School of Architecture, as well as a $12-plus million complete renovation of the Studio Arts Buildings – formerly the Engineering Shops – scheduled to be complete by 2015.

Building success

The LSU School of Architecture immerses its students in the study of architecture as a form of cultural dialogue, as well as a career.

The school's experienced faculty teaches students a solid foundation of traditional design, hands-on building and drawing skills, as well as how to use a multitude of technological resources. The program also teaches its students about project management, the humanities and graphic communication, as well as how to incorporate these into an architect's work. As students work through the program, they incorporate new skills and concepts into projects that evolve from ideas to finished designs.

While students in the LSU School of Architecture benefit from the resources of a large state university, with a faculty/student ratio of 1-to-20 during the first two years and 1-to-15 in upper-level classes, they also get the close-knit feel of a smaller program. The school has approximately 250 students, with 90 students officially accepted in the program after year two, so students find themselves in a welcoming community of familiar faces where they learn, create and grow together.

Community engagement and service learning are important parts of the LSU School of Architecture's mission. The school's Office of Community Design and Development, established in 2000, is a university-based interdisciplinary community outreach center that connects students with Louisiana communities to improve the quality of the built environment and the lives of citizens across the state and beyond.

The School of Architecture also has a record of collaborative investigations with philosophy, anthropology, geography, landscape architecture, business and social work. Faculty and students develop an appreciation for other fields through frequent work on cross-disciplinary teams in creating and executing designs. Service learning projects have also taken students to assist in rebuilding projects in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as overseas to South Africa. Southern Louisiana is a unique and inspiring place for the study of architecture. Relying on the range of urban and rural landscapes of Louisiana and the lower Mississippi Delta Region, our undergraduate and graduate programs emphasize inquiries into the role of design and architecture as it relates to the structure and image of a city. Through understanding and preservation of historic buildings, sites and urban districts, students learn how to protect historic elements as a community progresses into the future.

Guest speakers and educators from around the world visit LSU's College of Art & Design as part of the college's Distinguished Lecture Series, giving students as well as the general public a chance to hear from those currently practicing in the fields of art and design.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

While Louisiana offers a rich architectural heritage from which students can learn, the LSU School of Architecture also offers opportunities to travel to other areas of the world for extended periods. With a minor in community design as well as a travel program, the school offers students opportunities to tailor studies to their particular interests. The travel programs allow students to visit major architectural centers, study abroad and participate in exchange programs. In a student's fourth and fifth years, they may apply to study at the Architectural Consortium in Virginia, a unique opportunity to work with students from 10 universities from around the world. In the fall 2011 semester, 12 students and faculty member Robert Zwirn took part in the program. Or, they can choose to participate in a 10-week summer program in Rome.

To learn more about the LSU School of Architecture, visit the school's website at

Creativity on display

As the largest art department in Louisiana and the fourth-largest major at LSU, the LSU School of Art brings together more than 35 full-time faculty members and 500 undergraduate and graduate students to explore and embrace stylistic freedom, while offering specific concentrations and small studio courses that give the school an intimate feel.

Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, the school offers programs in art history, painting and drawing, ceramics, photography, digital art, printmaking, graphic design and sculpture.

LSU School of Art faculty members are accomplished working professionals – artists, designers and scholars who represent a diverse range of approaches and areas of expertise. Yet, they all share a commitment to developing in their students the vision and understanding they will need to succeed in a world of accelerating cultural change and technological innovation. One of these faculty members, art history professor and art historian Susan Elizabeth Ryan, recently won a Louisiana Artists and Scholars, or ATLAS, award in the amount of $50,000 for her proposal, "Critical Dressing: The Development of Wearable Technologies as Art and Design." Ryan's project, which will complete the first historical analysis of wearable and fashionable technologies, in the humanities category, was chosen from a pool of 52 proposals. The proposals were solicited for creative and scholarly activities undertaken by Louisiana faculty in all arts, humanities and social sciences disciplines. The ATLAS award will support Ryan in completing a manuscript, "Critical Dressing," for which she is under contract with MIT Press.

LSU Chancellor Michael Martin, right, views the work of LSU College of Art & Design students. Numerous projects, events and gallery displays allow students to showcase their work, and also prepare them for vital critiquing when they enter their chosen professions.
Eddy Perez/University Relations

Students in the LSU School of Art also develop specialized skills while experimenting with various mediums, exploring their own creative intuition and studying art history and contemporary art theory. Their well-rounded educational experience includes many studio classes, intensive critiques, dedicated professors and personal engagement with the larger arts community through a curriculum that combines academic teaching and hands-on experiences.

The School of Art promotes its faculty and student work in many ways: through numerous events, and at venues including the School of Art's Glassell Gallery at the Shaw Center for the Arts in downtown Baton Rouge; the LSU Museum of Art, also housed at the Shaw Center; the LSU Student Union Art Gallery; and the Unusual Art Show, where students and faculty display work available for the community to purchase. Recent faculty shows have been featured at venues including the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art; the Soren Christensen Gallery in New Orleans; and national juried exhibitions in New York City. Recent student exhibitions have included those at the Ogden Museum, as well as in the prestigious 5th National Collegiate Handmade Paper Triennial.

Students in the LSU School of Art also have the opportunity to interact with the business world, which can be the lead-in to a profitable career. This includes a thriving internship program and regular visits by notable graduates and guest speakers.

One such opportunity comes for students in instructor Veni Harlan's senior-level graphic design class. As part of the class' final project, Harlan gives her students the chance to gain first-hand experience in the world of corporate graphic design. For the project, students are divided into groups and paired with a local non-profit organization to develop a graphical advertising campaign. The students design everything from a Web page to print advertisements for the company, with some having even been chosen for use in official advertising campaigns. The LSU graphic design area in the School of Art has produced logos for the Department of Labor, the Department of Environmental Quality, and most recently, for the Louisiana Housing Corporation.

The school also features an art history degree program that is among the finest and most comprehensive in the South. With seven permanent faculty members, the department offers an unusually broad spectrum of courses in the history of European, American and Asian art, design and new media. The art history master's program was founded in 1946 and is the largest public program of its kind in Louisiana. Its graduates have gone on to receive doctorates at universities around the nation and to hold positions at museums and galleries internationally.

For more information on the LSU School of Art, visit

Designing from within

Students in the LSU College of Art & Design have the opportunity to study under educators with numerous years of experience both in the field of education, as well as in their chosen professions.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

With an explosion of design publications, blogs and television programs, the interior design profession has become a 21st century phenomenon, and LSU's Department of Interior Design continues to prepare students to enter this blossoming field.

Accredited by the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research, LSU's interior design department has also been ranked in the Top 10 in the nation by DesignIntelligence magazine. The program frequently collaborates with the School of Architecture and draws inspiration from the School of Art and the School of Landscape Architecture, bringing students a well-rounded program of creative and technical skills, in addition to business, liberal arts and communications courses.

Small classes, experienced faculty and a diverse curriculum help LSU interior design students nurture their creativity while learning to understand future clients' needs as well as developing the communication skills to explain and demonstrate their vision for a project.

An interior design degree from LSU opens into a wide variety of career paths with design and architectural firms and industry. LSU interior design graduates can work in residential or commercial design, or specialize in an area such as lighting, furniture and exhibition design, historic restoration, or set design.

One such success story is current LSU faculty member Kenneth Brown, a Baton Rouge native and 1995 LSU interior design graduate who recently returned to teach a class in the fall 2011 semester. Principal of Kenneth Brown Design, Brown currently divides his time between Baton Rouge and Los Angeles, where he has completed commercial projects as well as homes for celebrities including actors Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Kristen Bell, as well as professional athletes Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra. Brown's popularity from his own television shows on Fine Living, The Learning Channel and Home & Garden Television led to offer him the role of resident interior design expert. Additionally, American Express Open selected Brown to share his success story as part of their ongoing Iconic Open Forum Series. Also, Oprah's "O" magazine featured Brown in its "Live Your Best Life Tour," and has been named to the top 100 designers by House Beautiful and Western Interiors. Brown has also made appearances on The Today Show and Good Morning America, among other programs.

While no two paths are exactly the same, the LSU Department of Interior Design's strong network of connections with prestigious designers, design firms and manufacturers means students have internship opportunities while still in school as well as an advantage getting their foot in just the right door after graduation. In fact, a new partnership with Steelcase – a leading manufacturer of office furnishings – will use students and faculty to help research what offices need and want. The students will get a first-hand look at Steelcase's observation methods and how to best utilize space, bringing cutting-edge research to the program.

Students and faculty in the LSU Department of Interior Design also earn numerous awards and recognitions for their work. Most recently, two students and two faculty members won awards at the International Interior Design Association's Delta Regional Chapter Awards in New Orleans. Professional-in-Residence Matthew Edmonds and Instructor Tracy Burns, both principals of Commercial Design Interiors, or CDI, placed in three of 16 categories and won the Award of Excellence in Hospitality Design. CDI also won an Award of Recognition in Institutional Design and an Award of Excellence in Residential Design. Meanwhile, students Christine Diggs, and Beverly Gaudin won an Award of Excellence and an Award of Recognition, respectively.

To learn more about the LSU Department of Interior Design, visit

Ruling the landscape

In 2011, the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture's undergraduate program was once again recognized as the top program in the country by DesignIntelligence, a leading journal of the design professions, while the school's graduate program placed second behind only Harvard University. In the year's overall ratings, the school was ranked second in skills of communication, design, computer applications and cross-disciplinary teamwork, and tied for third for their sustainable design practices and principles. The school was also ranked second nationally by leaders of the various disciplines for being among their most admired undergraduate landscape architecture programs.

LSU's College of Art & Design offers state-of-the art work facilities for its students and faculty. The college is also working to improve those facilities to make them even better. These projects include capital improvements to existing buildings and a $12-plus million complete renovation of the Studio Arts Buildings, formerly the Engineering Shops, which is scheduled to be complete by 2015.
Eddy Perez/University Relations

"The fact that so many practitioners and academic leaders affirmed LSU's success at educating productive members of the landscape architecture profession is truly rewarding," said Van Cox, a professor in and interim director of the school. "It is evidence of the quality of LSU's landscape architecture programs, which are the only accredited programs in the state of Louisiana."

The Reich School, named for the late landscape architecture professor Robert S. "Doc" Reich, who started the university's landscape design program, has consistently ranked among the top five programs in the country since the DesignIntelligence rankings were devised more than a decade ago. The school has ranked either first or second for its undergraduate program and second or third for its graduate program for the past five years The consistency of such high rankings is unmatched by any other undergraduate program in the U.S., and only Harvard University's graduate program can claim such results in that category.

Cox said the continued support of the school by alumni is an important factor in its continued success, with alumni offering internships, hosting field study experiences, serving as advisors, guest lecturers and endowing professorships, chairs and scholarships.

"The rich cultural heritage and physical setting of Louisiana and the Lower Mississippi Delta region provide an invaluable resource for the study of landscape architecture," Cox said. "Our location on the Gulf of Mexico places us centrally in a region encompassing the Southern United States, Central and South America and the Caribbean. This geographical orientation informs our perspective and we believe that the investigation of this shifting and fluid context will result in the construction of frameworks useful for the study of landscape architectural issues that can have both local and global import."

Another part of the Reich School is LSU's Hilltop Arboretum, located on Highland Road southeast of the campus. Operated by the Friends of Hilltop, the 14-acre site is open to the public and showcases an extensive collection of Louisiana native trees and shrubs. The facility was donated to LSU in 1981 and serves both a model of the natural landscape and as an outdoor horticulture laboratory for students and the community. For more information, visit

A well-respected entity in the landscape architecture community, the Reich School has been called upon to aid in projects both locally and nationally. In 2010, for example, two graduate students in the school assisted in designing a landscaping project along Dalrymple Drive near Interstate 10 as part of the East Baton Rouge Parish Green Light program.

Reich School students have also received numerous honors for their work, including faculty and student national American Society of Landscape Architects, or ASLA awards.

More information on LSU's Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture can be found at

Developing synergies

While the LSU College of Art & Design gives students attention in their specific fields of study, it also works with departments across campus to enhance opportunities for students to expand their horizons.

Initiated in 2009 through a partnership between the College of Art & Design, the College of Engineering and the School of the Coast and the Environment, LSU's Coastal Sustainability Studio, or CSS, is a laboratory in which scientists, engineers and designers come together to study and respond to issues at the intersection of settlement, coastal restoration, flood protection, and the economy, bound together through their primary relationship to the Mississippi River. A goal of the CSS is to envision and design sustainable systems that reduce vulnerability associated with increased storm strength and global environmental change. The environmental and societal issues in coastal Louisiana mirror similar concerns in major river delta regions worldwide. The CSS provides research for policymakers that focuses on adaptation through more sustainable regional land-use planning, protection and education. To learn more, visit

All LSU College of Art & Design students have access to the school's large and comprehensive workshop, which can be used to complete class projects. The workshop provides students with not just work space, but also stationary power tools, pneumatic tools, hand-held manual and power tools, a laser cutter and a 3-D printer.

The college also enjoys a partnership with the university's Communication across the Curriculum program, or CxC. The CxC Art & Design studio offers student and faculty access to numerous resources that include writing review and feedback consultations; a photography room to capture and digitize artwork; filming and critique of oral presentations, speeches, interviews and other projects; assistance with creating visual presentations, websites and digital portfolios; check-out use of state-of-the-art video equipment; a conference room equipped with a SMART Board for project work; open-access PC workstations available for individual or group web design, graphic design, computer-aided drafting and 3-D design; an informal lounge area available for consultations; and course enhancement support for faculty. More information on the CxC Art & Design Studio can be found at To learn more about Communication across the Curriculum in general, visit

The College of Art & Design and CxC have partnered for numerous programs. Last year alone, CxC aided landscape architecture graduate students in contributing original graphic work on coastal erosion topics to related entries on Wikipedia, among other projects. In the fall of 2011, CxC facilitated a fourth-year undergraduate studio in an urban design project to improve New Iberia's underserved West End district.

A public display

The LSU College of Art & Design works to advance the appreciation of the arts and design in the broader community through distinctive public education, symposia and exhibition programs that serve the citizens of Louisiana with an enriched appreciation of local, national and international culture. These can be seen through exhibits and displays of student and faculty work both at campus-based venues as well as through other locations.

This mission also includes the college's Distinguished Lecture Series, which brings experts in the field of art and design from around the world during the spring and fall semesters to speak monthly on matters pertaining to their respective fields. These events are held in the Design Building's lecture hall and are open to students, faculty and the general public. Professional continuing education credit for both the American Institute of Architecture, or AIA, and ASLA, is available for attending these lectures.

To learn more about the LSU College of Art & Design, visit