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World-class programs immerse teens in the artist's life

Carolina Kane

Matthew Welage, 18, discovered he had a knack for drawing in grade school. “I wasn’t some huge science person or good at football or baseball,” says the Cincinnati native. “So art was kind of the thing I was best at, and people knew that.”
 
Students like Welage are informed at an early age by their parents and teachers as well as cultural treasures such as our modern and classic museums and world-class entertainment venues. By the time they reach high school, they are often considering careers in the arts, but that decision is a daunting one. To help them along with it, three of the area's most stalwart institutions, the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) and Baldwin Wallace (BW) each offer aspiring artists the chance to explore careers in their respective fields via intense pre-college programs.

Matthew Welage - Photo Andrew J. Vagner
 
Students come from all over the world for these curricula, in which they get a taste of college life, build their portfolios, earn college credit and study with the best in their fields.
 
It all combines, say participants, to deliver the experience of a lifetime.
 
A Unique Urban and Educational Experience
 
“It’s a really great opportunity for students to experience what it’s like to go to art school, work on their portfolios and explore a menu of choices for two weeks,” says Tom Berger, CIA’s director of continuing education and community outreach of the school's immersive Pre-College Program, to which high school students in grades 10 through 12 may apply.

CIA's Pre-College Program
 
“Students can explore multiple majors and earn up to six college credits, which should transfer to most colleges and are generally for elective courses,” Berger continues. The 15 eclectic programs include glassblowing, digital painting, game design, sculpture, biomedical art and many others. A maximum of 75 students will be accepted into the 2016 summer program, which consists of two two-week sessions at the new University Circle campus. Students can opt to stay downtown at the CIA's new Uptown Residence Hall to broaden this unique urban experience.
 
Welage had been a doodler in middle school and eventually turned to YouTube videos to learn about pen and graphite drawing. “When I got in high school I started getting educated in art,” he recalls. “That’s where I got into art and learned to draw,” and where he first learned of the Pre-College program from his high school art teacher, who is also a CIA alum.
 
Intrigued, Welage applied and spent two weeks at CIA in the summer of 2014 after his junior year in high school. He stayed on campus and took Foundation in Art + Design.
CIA's Foundation in Art Design 
“It was a new thing in my life,” he recalls of the program. “It was very different. I had never been away from my friends and family.”
 
Welage learned new techniques. “There were different points of view and different teaching,” he says, adding that the experience led him to apply to CIA for college. “I came to the summer program, visited three or four times, and then learned my favorite architect, [Stanley Saitowitz], designed the new residence hall.”
 
Berger says students such as Welage are just the ilk the CIA program targets. “Classes are really designed to meet the skill levels of beginners to more advanced students,” he says. “It’s tailored to their needs and really helps them develop the skills a professional artist would have.”
 
Welage eventually applied to eight art schools but ultimately decided on CIA. While all first year students spend a “foundation year” taking a core of introductory classes, he was able to simply interview for the interior architecture major on account of his Pre-College experience. His second choice is graphic design. He will hear if he gets his first choice in April.

Matthew Welage - drawing of the Starbucks on Euclid Ave
 
“After I graduate I want to move further into architecture,” says Welage. “With an interior architecture degree I can basically go into any space-designing career I want to.”

Another aspiring artist, Carolina Kane, 19, grew up in Mentor surrounded by art. “My mother was an art teacher so I was surrounded by art my whole life,” she says.
 
Like Welage, Kane also took Foundation in Art + Design in 2014 during her two weeks in the Pre-College program after her junior year in high school. The experience helped the Mentor resident discover what a college education in fine arts would be like.
 
“It really helped because I wasn’t quite sure what the workload would be,” she says. “I learned it’s a lot of work," adds Kane, tagging six hours of studio time each day and another optional three hours at night. "I didn’t mind the workload because I enjoyed it so much.”
Simply Me by Carolina Kane 
The work paid off. Her final assignment in the Pre-College program was a self-portrait. Her portrait, “Simply Me” took first place in the Congressional Art Competition and is currently hanging in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
 
Kane applied to CIA as well as three other schools, but ultimately chose CIA. Today, as a freshman considering a major in photography, she says she feels prepared and confident she made the right decision to study art.

“If you’re thinking about going to art school, or are on the fence about it, definitely try to get into the program,” she advises. “A lot of people end up changing their minds or they say, ‘now I know this is what I want.’ It’s an eye opener to what it’s going to be like," she adds.
 
Prospective participants must submit an application, school transcripts, a letter of recommendation, a personal statement and a portfolio with a $35 application fee. Tuition assistance is available. CIA is accepting applications for this year's program through June 1. Those seeking tuition assistance must apply by May 5.
 
Students can receive three college credits for the two-week program or six credits if they attend both sessions. The two-week experience costs $2,250 and includes tuition, room and board, materials and most activities. The four-week experience costs $4,800. A commuter option is available for local participants. The non-profit urban arts promotion organization Graffiti HeArt provides some full tuition scholarships as well.
 
"It’s a great opportunity,” says Kane.
 
A Whole Curriculum Packed into One Week
 
Brianna O’Boyle, 17, got involved in theater through the Beck Center for the Arts, taking classes and watching productions. “I thought it was interesting to see the stories come to life,” she says. “I started falling in love with it more and more as I got into it,” the Strongsville High School senior recalls. Thusly bitten by the acting bug, she knew she wanted to study theater in college.
 
Brianna O'Boyle as "Roxie Hart" at Beck CenterTo be sure of that choice and to prepare for her college auditions, she enrolled in Baldwin Wallace’s weeklong Music Theatre Overtures (MTO) last summer. “It was a whole curriculum packed into one week,” says O'Boyle.
 
The program, open to high school juniors, is designed to provide intensive musical theater training, including private voice lessons, workshops, and dance and monologue classes. The experience prepares students for college auditions, says Victoria Bussert, artistic director for the program and director of BW’s nationally recognized musical theater program.
 
"Each day provides three hours of music theater workshops, either in acting or private lessons,” says Bussert. “It gives high schoolers an idea of what it’s like to go to Baldwin Wallace," she notes, adding that students stay on campus for the duration and get a first hand preview of college life.
 
It's a privilege to which only a couple handfuls of students are treated. Between 60 and 80 students apply from all over the world each year and only 15 are chosen for the MTO program.
 
“We look for young artists who are passionate and fearless in communicating through this art form,” says Bussert, “students who have researched their songs and monologues and bring their own points of view to their work.”
 
O’Boyle says the program is tough, but worth it. “It was jam-packed and it was challenging,” she says of the curriculum, adding that she subsequently applied to 12 colleges and went on some college auditions with as many as 400 participants.
 
Ultimately, the BW experience convinced O’Boyle she wanted to be an actress. “It’s a scary process to go in front of someone three feet in front of you and give everything in your soul,” she says. “But there’s so much gratification on the other side when you go through it.”
 
She was subsequently accepted to BW and will be attending the college in the fall. According to Bussert, nearly all of the MTO graduates are accepted into drama programs all over the country.
 
To apply, students must submit an online application, a video audition that includes two 32-bar selections from both a ballad and an up-beat song, a YouTube monologue and a $200 deposit. Applications are due April 1. Tuition is $1,350, which includes room and board.
 
A Musical Career Path that Starts in University Circle
 
Josh Elmore, 18, was required to choose an instrument to play in fifth grade in the Shaker Heights City Schools. He chose violin before switching to bassoon.
 
“In sixth grade I decided violin wasn’t for me,” he recalls. “I’ve been playing bassoon ever since." He eventually followed the musical path to the Young Artist Program (YAP) at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
 
While CIA and BW offer intense residential summer programs, high school juniors and seniors such as Elmore attend YAP throughout the school year, spending mornings on academics at their regular schools. Afternoons, and often evenings, play out on the CIM campus where students take private lessons, performance and musical analysis seminars, music theory, eurhythmics and sight-singing, and chamber music.
 
Elmore admits the program is intense, but he enjoys it. “I heard only great things about it,” he says. “I thought it would be a good thing to do, especially since it’s my last year of high school.”
 
“This is an amazing experience,” adds Marci Alegant, CIM’s director of preparatory and continuing education. “You get to study with conservatory faculty members. We are one of only a very few conservatories to offer a program like this.”
Joshua Elmore 
Participants must attend one of YAP’s partner schools, which include Shaker High, St. Ignatius or Montessori High School, or have early dismissal permission from another school. “They come from all over the world,” says Alegant of the YAP students. “They are talented and incredibly motivated," she notes, adding students do not enroll in the program on a whim.
 
Elmore completes his classroom academic work at Shaker in the mornings, and then reports to CIM mid-afternoon. He gets up at 5 a.m. and is in bed by 10:30 p.m.
 
"I love what I do,” he says, adding that he finishes his homework and practice work between classes. “I sort of knew music was what I was going to do as a profession. My whole family is musically inclined.”
 
Graduates of YAP earn enough college credit to enter college as sophomores. About half the students go on to attend CIM. Others opt for the likes of Julliard, Oberlin or Curtis Institute of Music.
 
“If you have gone through the Young Artist Program at CIM, that says something about your talent,” says Alegant. “Most students get in wherever they audition and apply.”
 
Elmore agrees. “It helped me a lot this year, especially with college auditions,” he says, adding that he applied to five schools but is hoping to get into Julliard.
 
Ten students applied for YAP this year, eight of which are currently enrolled. Admissions run until April and include an audition. Tuition is $6,690 with a $470 fee per semester. YAP does not provide student housing. Email Alegant for more information.
 
Elmore's mother Robin, a violinist, is proud of her son’s accomplishments so far. “I’m grateful for the personal instruction and support at CIM,” she says. “I am grateful that he was introduced to music."

Cleveland Institute of Art is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.
 

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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