DADAH Foundations | Webster University

DADAH Foundations


Webster University’s DADAH has a unique approach to what is commonly referred to as Art Foundations. For us there is no such thing as a “typical art student.” A new student to DADAH may be an 18-year-old straight from high school, a returning war veteran, a transfer student holding down two jobs, or single parent returning to school for a new career. Regardless, these incoming students do not represent a blank slate.

Through the process of closely viewing an incoming student’s portfolio, we establish a plan tailored to the prior experience and specific vision of each student. We know that each applicant has already begun to build their own foundation in art. It is our job to respect, tweak, enhance, repair, and build upon the foundation that has been in formation all along. This is accomplished in many ways:

Creative Strategies

Creative Strategies is at the core of the first semester schedule. Described as “bungee jumping for the brain,” Creative Strategies asks students to examine their assumptions of what it means to be an artist today. Myths are debunked, skills are assessed, and the key question is posed: “Why do you make art?” Through readings, discussion, interactive exercises, and hands-on art making, Creative Strategies students increase awareness of their natural methodology and broaden their personal foundation to include the making and survival strategies of contemporary artists.

Design Concepts

Design Concepts conveys the elements and principles of Bauhaus design traditionally covered in Two-Dimensional Design, but goes further. Students learn the modernist canon of “good design” and are then asked to deconstruct that canon from a post-modernist perspective. The result is that students recognize that the best design is that which accomplishes their creative intention.

Art History

What is art today? Students contemplate these questions in their first semester by taking Current Art History. The course introduces contemporary artists and challenging works of art from across the globe. Pluralistic styles, non-traditional media, harsh realities, lofty goals, and political intention are established as art history in the making. A new art student must know where he or she stands at this moment in order to look back to the past and glean from history. Introduction to the History of Western Art, which provides them with the background and foundations to what they learned in Current. A third course, Asian Art, provides a non-Western viewpoint to the making of art by examining various cultures that have equally long, but different, histories of artistic considerations. All three courses consider the facts and the methods of art history, while offering examples of artistic solutions, symbols, theories, and subjects to help develop the student’s artistic vocabulary.


The foundations program also includes four drawing courses that all studio students take (art history students take one). Upon portfolio review faculty assess each student’s drawing ability, and places that student in the appropriate course and level based on demonstrated command of representational and conceptual drawing abilities. The department believes in the utility of drawing for exploring the world and developing ideas, even if it has no part in the final art product. Drawing, then, is not only an emphasis which students can specialize in, but helps to unify DADAH students so that they all speak the same visual language at the base of their individual artistic expressions.

Ultimately, the Foundations program produces a sense of unity that ties the department’s many individuals together. Its pedagogical principles lead into all of our programs, but at its heart it forges a strong community among students and teachers, through a shared culture and a shared language. Students take the lessons of the foundations courses forward into their chosen program and their practice, while remaining connected to the DADAH community throughout their time at Webster, and then beyond.

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