Art Foundations

The Art Foundations Program provides beginning students with fundamental skills, knowledge, and experiences essential to their development as visual arts professionals.

Professional success in the visual arts requires knowledge of past and present accomplishments in the field, an ability to make interdisciplinary connections, and a strong sense of self-direction. Students are encouraged to develop and enhance their technical skills, develop their critical judgment, refine their personal goals, and expand their understanding of history and culture. The curriculum offers an introduction to all of the visual arts professions offered by the School of Art and Design, and helps prepare students to choose an undergraduate course of study.

All undergraduate degree programs in art, with the exception of the major in art history, require 12 semester hours of foundations courses. These include classes in 2-D and 3-D traditional and digital design and two classes in basic drawing, all taken during the Freshman year. In addition, all studio and art education majors must take a beginning life drawing class and a two-course sequence surveying the history of world art (excluding the general education course “Introduction to the Visual Arts”). Currently, this basic curriculum, taken at the Freshman and Sophomore levels, comprises a total of 21 semester hours of the 120 or more semester hours required to complete an undergraduate degree at NIU. Transfer students may satisfy some or all of these prerequisite courses at other institutions, depending on the evaluation of their transfer credit upon entering NIU.


Upon successful completion of the Foundations Program, students will have achieved a professional disposition as demonstrated by:

  • Ability to develop and solve visual problems using various strategies for idea generation.
  • Ability to creatively translate ideas into visual terms using a wide range of art media and processes.
  • A capacity to think critically, and write and speak clearly about visual arts.
  • An understanding of the wide range of contemporary and historical visual culture and its role in society.
  • Manifest a work ethic that reflects integrity, teamwork, and dedication to professional growth, social responsibility and the confidence to take risks.
niu | school of art and design
jack arends building
dekalb, il 60115-2883