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Avant-Garde: Investing in Our Future Creatives

DR. LARRY THOMPSON [ Higher Education ] SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY FEB. 27, 2016

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onnecting students and emerging creatives with a world-class education is a task we at Ringling College of Art and Design take seriously. As you may know, undertaking an art and design education demands a different learning environment than that offered by traditional colleges and universities. Creatives need to make, build and do—a concept we call the studio model of teaching. This model places importance on providing a low student-to-teacher ratio, the most up-to-date technology and facilities and opportunities that place our students in the “real world” before they graduate. But these experiences can come at a cost—one that may become a barrier to achieving the art and design education that many students desire and deserve. Every Spring, we hold our annual student scholarship fundraiser, An Evening at the Avant-Garde, for the sole purpose of closing this gap and empowering more students to receive the creative education they seek. Proceeds from our ticket sales go to our Student Scholarship Fund, previously amounting to $50,000, $100,000 and even $225,000 raised in one night for students in financial need. We do this because we believe in the value of a creative education, and we want to empower our students to make this investment in their own future. And it pays off! Definitely one of our more spirited events, Avant-Garde is a night of celebration that encourages attendees to come in costume, according to the year’s theme. This year’s theme, Bringing Characters to Life, recognizes the thousands of characters created and stories spun by our talented alumni, including those who worked on award-winning films such as Inside Out, Shrek and Avatar. We toast to their successes, yes, but more importantly, we are there to make a difference in the lives and futures of art and design students. Currently, 8 out of 10 Ringling College students rely on financial aid to meet tuition requirements. This is why we do what we do—to relieve the financial burdens that often distract and deter us from our goals. We are proud to say some of our most extraordinary students, benefitting from events such as these, take every opportunity available to learn and grow during their four years on campus. In fact, last year’s recipient of the Avant-Garde Scholarship went on to become a 2015-16 Trustee Scholar as well—the most prestigious honor, awarded to the top students of every major each year. A community event, Avant-Garde brings together every corner of the Ringling College family and especially its friends and supporters. Wearing a costume is optional but many participants will sport a different costume and share their varying perspectives on art and education, but all will be there with one goal in mind: to foster, encourage and connect talented art and design students with the education they need to succeed. Creativity has never been more in-demand, and we are committed to fostering and developing the next generation of creative leaders. Come support a student. We hope to see you there!!! Dr. Larry R. Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art and Design.

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