An Artful Solution: Changes to SMC’s Art Curriculum will Strengthen Education Opportunities

An Artful Solution: Changes to SMC’s Art Curriculum will Strengthen Education Opportunities

by Stacey Majkrzak

Professor Kris Neely, center, and studio art students (left to right) Loren Hughes, Sarah Davis and Hannah White.


This article appeared originally in the Fall/Winter issue of Frontiers Magazine.

When Kris Neely became professor of art at Spartanburg Methodist College in August 2016, he came to a familiar place. As a lifelong Spartanburg resident, he was aware of his hometown college but admits to being unaware of the educational and professional impact it has on students. It was only when he became a full-time faculty member member, he says, that he realized how special SMC is to the community and to the students and faculty who call it home.

SMC has a long history of providing studio art instruction, but the college knew it wanted to offer more to students. “SMC has a state-of-the-art studio and a fantastic base regarding class offerings,” Neely says. “It was time to take the existing program to the next level for the instruction to better serve the students, and I feel so honored they chose me.”

Because SMC is a two-year institution, its courses are designed to transfer easily to four-year colleges and universities. However, recent changes to South Carolina law require National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) certfication for colleges offering four-year studio art classes – making the guidelines for accepting transfer credit much stricter.

“When our students are unable to transfer their art classes credits, it limits their options as they look to further their education,” says Neely. “It’s also incredibly frustrating to take courses at one college only to find those credits don’t transfer and you have
to start all over at a new institution,” he continued. “SMC recognizes this frustration and wants to prepare students better and set them up for continued educational success.”

Neely took on the arduous task of writing a new studio art curriculum, which included adding courses.

“We were already offering core foundations classes in drawing and design, but in following the NASAD guidelines, we added a 3-D design class and a computer graphics course,” he explains. “Not only are these classes transferable, but we have added courses that allow students to view art as a viable professional option at their next institution.”

The next hurdle was the stipulation that NASAD accredited schools couldn’t accept transfer credits from non-double-blocked courses. (Double-blocked courses meet twice as long as regular courses.) Because Neely is the college’s sole professor of art, the longer courses posed a challenge in an already crowded course load.

“I know from experience that building a studio program requires a willingness to put in the extra work,” he laughs. “Administrators were very considerate in asking if I was going to be okay with the amount of time needed to have a program like this. For me, it was an easy decision because of my love for both art and teaching, but I appreciated their concern.”

Neely’s new art curriculum was unanimously accepted by SMC faculty, which applauded his efforts to grow the program. Their extraordinary support was humbling, he notes. “When we start sending our graduates to prestigious programs to continue their studies, we will celebrate this achievement together.”

Neely says he has never seen a college so committed to the mission and feels like he’s in the right place.

“Students at SMC truly have the opportunity to access the best education and the most committed faculty that want to do all we can to see them succeed in their education, career and life,” he says.

Michael Johnson uses his laptop to find inspiration for his 3-D Design assignment.

Neely’s new art curriculum was unanimously accepted by SMC faculty, which applauded his efforts to grow the program. Their extraordinary support was humbling, he notes. “When we start sending our graduates to prestigious programs to continue their studies, we will celebrate this achievement together.”

Neely says he has never seen a college so committed to the mission and feels like he’s in the right place.

“Students at SMC truly have the opportunity to access the best education and the most committed faculty that want to do all we can to see them succeed in their education, career and life,” he says.

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