Art classes aren’t as easy to come by as they once were. With all the reform in schools we see today, many kids do not have access to art programs and the ones who do, aren’t getting the quality they deserve because of severe lack of funding. When it comes to adults, many don’t know where to turn if they want to learn a new artsy skill, or they cannot afford the available courses.
Last year, art professor Clara Lieu of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Thomas Lerra began the project Art Prof, an online educational platform providing classes on visual arts. The classes are captured in videos and taught by university art professors and professional artists. There is a wide range of classes available. Some courses teach the basics, such as drawing, others teach more difficult techniques, such as animation, printmaking, and sculpture. There are also classes that will teach you how to sell your art, prepare an art portfolio, or overcome “artist block.”
These courses are not only instructional, but they’re also fun and captivating for their audiences. One of the instructors brings along their pet guinea pig as their studio assistant. On Casey Roonan’s page, an illustrator instructor, they post bloopers of him filming his teachings.
The most important part of this site is that it is free to the public. Lieu explains that having any financial barrier would be going against the project’s mission. Tuition costs and instructional sites like Lynda.com that have paywalls can be prohibitive. Lieu wanted to provide classes to those who wouldn’t normally be able to afford it as well as for those in areas that don’t offer classes that are readily available.
Art Prof stemmed from an advice blog Lieu was writing called “Ask the Art Prof.” The blog was originally started for the benefit of RISD students but quickly grew attention from professional artists and university art students all around the world. During this time, Lieu was also involved with RISD’s Project Open Door. Project Open Door offered art classes to teens in the area who were never exposed to art classes in school.
This opened Lieu’s eyes to how many people were seeking visual arts education. She connected with Thomas Lerra to bring art classes to anyone with a connection to the internet. Lerra raised $30,000 to fund the core group of video classes as well as launching the websites. Today, Art Prof still runs solely on donations.