Visual Arts

Start your art degree at SMC!

Get started on almost any art-related degree with an Associate in Arts in Visual Arts from Southwestern Michigan College.


The AA in Visual Arts can be used as the first two years of an art-related degree and can transfer to almost any school in the country.

Right Arrow  Use this degree to transfer to study...

  • Advertising
  • Animation
  • Art History
  • Art Instruction
  • Commercial Photography
  • Computer Graphics
  • Design and Visual Communication
  • Fashion Design, Research and Development, Textile Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration

Program guide, AA in Visual Arts


  • Interior Design
  • Journalism (art criticism, blogging, short writing)
  • Medical and Scientific Illustration
  • Museum and Gallery Management, Curating, Conservation, Education, Development, Public Relations, Sales
  • Production Pottery
  • Studio Art (painting, sculpting, photography, video, installation art)
  • Video/Film Production



Kendall College of Art and Design
Gwen Frostic School of Art at Western Michigan University
College for Creative Studies
Columbia College
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Herron School of Art & Design at Indiana University

  About the AA in Visual Arts

The visual arts degree offers a platform for artists and designers to learn to communicate visually, to explore their surroundings and gain exposure to the fundamental elements of a studio art practice. A degree in Visual Arts builds on a foundational art curriculum, designed to transfer effectively to a four-year institution. The primary focus of this program is assisting you in finding your own voice as an artist. Studio courses offer small class sizes coupled with individualized instruction, critical dialogue and the support of a dedicated learning community. Classes weave together traditional and contemporary methodologies with active, personal explorations. Students are provided support to build a cohesive portfolio of their works while experimenting with new concepts and approaches.

Art Appreciation and History of Art courses examine and question artistic production in our society. Exploring a broad range of artist projects in diverse communities, environments and media, discussion topics address and analyze shifting cultural significance, value relationships, materials and meanings of art.

Students can choose to specialize in studio/fine arts (painting, drawing, ceramics, photography) or graphic design coursework.

Graphic design students learn basic and advanced skills in Adobe Creative Suite software, publishing standards, typography, animation, design principles and industry best practices. Classrooms are equipped with Mac computers and the latest design software.

Fine/studio art students explore painting, watercolor, ceramics, photography and drawing under the guidance of accomplished artists. They will learn art appreciation, art history, design principles and color theory.

Each year, students display their work in a student art show in which returning students may win scholarships for following semesters. They also periodically have the opportunity to display their work for the community in downtown Dowagiac.

Why Art at SMC?

The Visual and Performing Arts Department has been an important part of the SMC culture since the college began 50 years ago. The Dale A. Lyons Building , which houses the Art Gallery, Theatre and visual and performing arts classrooms, is the center for art and performance at SMC.

Several art exhibits are held every year to introduce students to new artists and mediums. The Art Gallery showcases a range of rotating exhibitions featuring works from locally, regionally and nationally recognized artists. The gallery annually showcases new student projects in an immersive exhibition in the Spring semester.

All instructors are real-world professionals also invested in the own art or design practices; many exhibit both regionally and nationally.

Our program encourages interdisciplinary work throughout the college, and projects in studio classes frequently transcend disciplinary boundaries. For example, students in painting and graphic design courses have developed video projections in collaboration with the symphonic band and exhibited them during the fall concert.

Classrooms are equipped with all the tools and technology students will encounter in their careers and regularly updated to provide students the most relevant instruction.

Field trips to ArtPrize in Grand Rapids and other events and exhibits across the region provide opportunities for students to see professional art exhibits. Classes have toured the City of Dowagiac sculpture collection and collaborated with the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, MI.

The Dowagiac area also places a big emphasis on the arts and provides a great opportunity for students to showcase their work, meet other artists and learn from the works of world-renown artists. The Dowagiac community is very supportive of SMC students, and the college has partnered with the city of Dowagiac a number of times to promote upcoming artists.

Individual Course Plans

If you know which school you want to transfer to, SMC advisors will look at that school’s requirements and show you which classes to take to transfer to that school.

If you don’t know which school you want to transfer to, you can figure that out while you’re here. Career Planning Center advisors will help you discover the ‘perfect fit’ school for you. Learn more about transferring at the Career Planning Center.

Almost every bachelor’s program requires you to take general education and pre-requisite courses for the first two years. You can save a ton of money by taking those courses at SMC.

Average tuition and fees at top Michigan universities


Tuition and fees at SMC


*University tuition and fees are averaged from the 16-17 estimates of University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University. Most schools have not set 17-18 costs yet. SMC tuition is based on 17-18 costs.






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