Spotlight on Education: North Carolina School of the Arts and The Juilliard School

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Continuing our Spotlight on Education series, we turn to the North Carolina School of the Arts and the Juilliard Professional Apprentice Program. Both offer training programs for artists, but they differ from each other in notable ways. We break them both down below.

North Carolina School of the Arts; MFA in Scenic Art

North Carolina is a unique addition to our series in that they are one of the only remaining programs that offer a MFA in Scenic Art. (It’s worth noting that they do have a BFA program in Scenic Art as well, for those looking at an undergraduate level.) Their graduate Scenic Art program can lead you to careers as scenic artists or scenic charges for various venues, programs and groups. Some graduates have chosen paths in academia and as curators for cultural centers where their creativity and skills can still shine. Nearly all of UNCSA’s alumni find jobs in their chosen field, so no matter what path you choose, your degree and portfolio will speak volumes.

We chatted briefly with Howard Jones, who you may remember as one of the two co-founders of Cobalt Studios. Here’s what he had to say about his program:

What makes your program different from similar programs?

Most other programs are certificates, or they are focused on scene design. Our program at UNSCA is focused on Scenic Art. We support the Drama, Music and Dance schools painting 12 to 16 productions a year in a shop that is 10,000 square feet, separate from the scene and prop shops. With that many shows we usually have a wide variety of experience from classical drop painting, to naturalistic (woodgrain and brick) as well as heavy three dimensional textures.

What type of individual would excel in your program?

Self-motivated, driven students excel in our program. We want to train the best professional possible. We also expect them to be responsible for the business of our industry. All the productions are designed, built, engineered, painted and managed by the students. As a Charge you are expected to estimate time and materials and do all the purchasing for a production. And to stay in budget.

What are you looking for in a potential applicant?

Energy, talent and drive. Drawing is always a major component to a student’s success.

Where do your graduates end up working?

In addition to training the students as scenic artists, we also focus on having them develop a well-rounded portfolio and a well-written resume. We stress the networking aspect of the business and encourage them to reach out to members of the industry for job opportunities. My graduates are working all over the country in major shops, on films, with Cirque du Soleil, in regional theatres, museums, and entertainment parks. Many of them end up taking on leadership roles at large shops and on major films.


Howard Jones
Director of Scenic Art & Scenic Painting. Jones’ Biography.

To request information on tuition and applications, please visit their website.

The Juilliard School; Professional Apprentice Program

The Juilliard School Professional Apprentice Program in the area of Scene Painting provides a practical “hands on” experience working on roughly two dozen productions of differing sizes and disciplines under the supervision of the Resident Charge Artist and Assistant Charge Artist.  (Please note that the Production Department is comprised of professionals. Juilliard students do not provide technical support for productions.) Their goal is to provide a practical realistic experience preparing all apprentices for careers in their chosen fields.

The apprentices in the Scenic Art department work on all productions under the supervision of the Charge Artist and Assistant Charge Artist.  While working on roughly two dozen productions of differing sizes over the course of the year, apprentices will learn sample processes, layout, and typical scenic techniques. This includes hard scenery, textures, soft goods and drops, faux finishes, and some sculpting. The responsibilities of apprentices also include day to day shop maintenance, and completed independent drawing and painting projects, in order to hone their skills. Safety training and portfolio development will also be addressed. All applicants must show examples of their practical scene painting experience and drawing abilities with a portfolio, and they should be self-motivated individuals who pride themselves on cooperation and quality work.

Tuition Cost?

There is no tuition cost for the Professional Apprentice program.  The program is full time (40 hours per week) and nine months in length (September – May).  Apprentices are presently paid $13 per hour plus overtime when needed at a rate of $19.50 per hour.  As minimum wage increases so does the compensation. At this time, there are no scholarships.  Health insurance may be offered if needed and Juilliard shares the cost.

Degree Options?

Juilliard offers no degree or certificate upon completion of the Apprentice Program.  However, having successfully completed the program provides a positive addition to one’s resume and often opens many opportunities.

Artists on Staff:

Jenny Stanjeski, Scenic Charge Artist. Stanjeski’s biography.

Liza Handziak, Assistant Scenic Charge.


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