Best Kept College Secrets

Colleges for Real People

Santa Fe University of Art and Design – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe University of Art and Design – Santa Fe, New Mexico

I wrote America’s Best Kept College Secrets because I believe in the mission and purpose of these colleges and universities.  One that has emerged as a remarkable option for anyone longing to pursue in the arts in the Southwest is Santa Fe University of Art and Design.  In order to better promote their work, I’ve included the entire article about the university.


Full Disclosure:  Santa Fe University of Art and Design is the recently reformed and reconstituted university built from the ashes of the College of Santa Fe, the exciting and innovative college forced into bankruptcy in 2008.  Ordinarily, the financial disaster that played itself out at the College of Santa Fe would remove a college from consideration in a guide of this sort.  There are at least three circumstances, however that make the University of Art and Design a compelling well kept secret.

In the first place, the financial mess was a very public mess.  There was no cover-up and no fancy footwork.  The lovely College of Santa Fe had been fighting against the tide for a very long time, trying to maintain what was essentially an experimental arts curriculum while providing continuing education through a weekend program and offering a degree in business administration.  Originally founded by the Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic teaching order, the College of Santa Fe served too many masters, pleased none, and ran out of steam.

In the second place, when the crisis finally forced the college to shut its doors, the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, created a College of Santa Fe Task Force to figure out a way to preserve an arts university in the State of New Mexico.  The end result of the initiative was that a new university was created through the partnership of the City of Santa Fe, the New Mexico State Governor’s Office, and a private for-profit educational company, Laureate Education.

Finally, the infusion of resources from all three sources allowed the new university to open its doors on a campus that is a far more attractive and more effective than that of its predecessor college.  Whereas the College of Santa Fe was exciting but shabby, SFUAD is exciting and spiffy.   A recent jump in admissions selectivity certainly speaks to the increasing confidence artists have found in this exciting college.

Not only are the teaching and work spaces up to the standards of a first-rate arts school, but the residences are handsome and comfortable.  Perhaps the single most obvious difference on campus is the construction of an impressive tennis complex.  The stadium is capable of seating a thousand spectators, and the facility includes six indoor courts as well as lighting for the seven outdoor courts.

Oh, and by the way, the university is in Santa Fe, a city whose name is virtually synonymous with patronage of the arts.  It is hard to imagine a city more artistically minded, more endorsing of creativity, and more strikingly beautiful.

Santa Fe University of Art and Design would be fairly attractive even without its impressive curriculum.

The curriculum at SFUAD is the more remarkable for its rapid implementation.  Strength in the visual arts seemed likely, and the recent explosion of creative energy in the area of film and video had already pulled Santa Fe into the public eye.  What came as a surprise was the power of the university’s programs in contemporary music and music technology.

Interestingly, SFUAD offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Art and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Arts.  The BA program is a studio program with a complementary course work in Art History and other disciplines.  The BFA program is a professional program in which skills and practices of a student’s art are developed through coursework, internship, and thesis presentation.

A program in Graphic Design is intended to bring the aspiring designer to competence in design elements and to mastery of digital image making.  This is a professional program, preparing graduates to enter the field of graphic design immediately upon graduation.

The Moving Image Arts filmmakers work in a professional studio, the Greer Garson Studio, where films such as No Country for Old Men have been shot; the Garson Studio has been a Hollywood location for generations. Students can explore Film, Digital Media, Screenwriting, and Production.  One notable resource at SFUAD is The Screen, a remarkable cinematheque screening great works daily on a curved high definition screen.

The Photography programs include a BA in Photography, allowing the aspiring photographer to study the elements of photography in the context of broad education, and a BFA in Photography, essentially a professional preparation in the craft of photography in order to become a practicing photographer upon graduation.

Unlike many other arts schools or conservatories, Santa Fe offers three areas of professional training that stand outside of the traditional studio experience.

One legacy from the College of Santa Fe is the program in Creative Writing and Literature.  The program offers coursework and practice in Creative Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, and Screenwriting.  A capstone experience is the Senior Reading, in which the writer prepares a book-length manuscript.

A second unusual option is the large program in Performing Arts.  Areas of concentration include Theater Performance, Theater Design, Theater Acting, Theater Music, and Technical Theater Design.  Professional training as an actor, singer, dancer, designer, director – all are offered in this unusual and ambitious performing arts program.

Finally, the program in Contemporary Music combines Performance, Music Theory, Music Technology, and Recording Technology in a professional program preparing the graduate for a career in the music industry.

A significant difference between SFUAD and some other professional art or design schools is that Santa Fe has built four residence halls and several on-campus apartment houses for residential students; the program at SFUAD is entirely residential, which not only relieves the difficulty of finding housing in a precious city such as Santa Fe, but also creates a community of professional artists, living and working together.

The university has retained a strong sense of community by endorsing residential life, providing an excellent dining service, and many recreational activities.  A gymnasium, rock climbing wall, tennis courts, squash and racquetball courts, and stunning opportunities in the Outdoors make SFUAD truly unique as a school of arts.

Of course, the most significant facilities and resources are the extraordinary work, rehearsal, digital, and studio spaces available in this fine arts Mecca.  For the student who thinks a late night trip to the practice room or digital lab is the cat’s meow, SFUAD is a wonderland.

The admissions process is somewhat different at SFUAD in that a personal statement of goals and evidence of sustained attention to craft will carry significant weight in the process.  Demonstration of talent will be considered carefully.

An interview is required, as are a personal statement and either SAT or ACT scores.  Scores reported for the middle 50% of enrolled students range from 510 to 650 on the Critical Reading subtest of the SAT and from 480 to 580 on the Math subtest.  ACT Composite scores have ranged from 21 to 27.

In recent years, SFUAD has received approximately 624 applications and has accepted approximately 517 in order to enroll 166.  Some portion of that group is made up of students transferring to SFUAD.  The rate of acceptance in the past few admissions seasons has dropped from 80% to 89%

Enrolled students are 65% White/Non-Hispanic, 49% female, and 51% male.


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