By Peri Tenebaum '13, Guest Writer Senior thesis is a well-known (and feared) aspect of senior year. You must complete one to graduate, and many participate in a year-long thesis. For most departments, senior thesis involves a paper, maybe a poster and lots of research. However, for Art majors, senior thesis is markedly different.
For starters, according to Professor Rankaitis, art majors must complete ART192—their senior seminar. During fall semester, majors are required to complete a semester-long project, which can be anything in the fine arts category: photographs, paintings, installations, video art, ceramics or even performance art. The only requirement is that the culminating a project must be at the “senior art level” in terms of concept, execution of the concept, technical skill and time devoted to the project. While completing this project, seniors must also write a 15 to 20-page research paper directly related to the project.
This aspect is relatively similar to “regular” thesis. It is graded by two readers, one selected by the senior and Professor Rankaitis, who runs the senior art seminar.
However, in order to participate in spring semester thesis, art majors must “try out.” Art seniors must participate in “faculty walkthroughs” which normally occur the week before Thanksgiving. These walkthroughs are presentations of the work done in the spring. Most, if not all, of the art faculty walk through the work that has been done by each senior. The seniors present and explain their work, as well as answer any questions the professors have.
After this, the faculty meets in private and discusses the show. At that point they vote to decide who will continue on to spring thesis, which culminates in a showing at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery. The spring seminar involves creating a better or more advanced version of the art that has been done in the fall and also the full planning on the spring show. About 60 to 100 percent of the seniors are voted through to the spring seminar.
Not all seniors apply for the spring portion of the thesis, and some even turn down the offer. Some wish to graduate early, others participate in more demanding internships, and some others choose to focus their time on creating a portfolio rather than pieces for the show. Certainly the art thesis is different from the typical theses we see presented on the Scripps campus. In fact, the art thesis is more akin to the experiment or lab aspect required by science majors than it is to the extensive research paper done by those in the humanities department. The art department stresses that senior art projects can be very diverse, and very indicative of the student who created the thesis. the department works hard to ensure that each student produces a piece that is challenging and meaningful, but also successful.