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Three Summer of Art Graduates on How the Otis College Program Helped Forge Their Creative Paths

MarcAnthony Pellici Smith
“Summer of Art was crucial in the development of my painting and drawing skills,” says one graduate who now is a working artist and graphic designer. 
Anna Raya  

From July 6-30, high school students will get to experience what a rigorous, college preparatory arts program is like during Otis College’s Summer of Art program. Open to young artists aged 15 and older, the program will again be virtual this summer, focusing on one-on-one instructor critique and culminating in potential work for college application portfolios. A combination of synchronous and asynchronous class meetings will delve into such specialization courses as Digital Media, Fashion Design, Painting, and the newly announced Concept Art. Wondering if Summer of Art is right for you or someone you know? These three graduates share their experiences.

MarcAnthony Pellici Smith 

Attended Summer 2018; Currently a junior in the Toy Design program at Otis College

I attended Summer of Art because the Toy Design program at Otis looked interesting and I believed it would be a great way to test it out while getting a taste of college. Summer of Art accomplished everything I wanted to learn, and more. It did a great job of simulating studio classes and college-level critique of work, which helped me tremendously since I had little guidance in art beforehand. What I didn’t expect was to make friendships and connections that are still strong today. It allowed me to be around people with similar interests and beliefs. After Summer of Art I had confidence in my artwork that I didn’t before, and a sense of community that Otis offered. I was able to view the world around me in a different light. Everything in the world is designed, and everything can be used as inspiration. My Summer of Art experience gave me background on Otis’s education style and priorities, which has helped me focus on the right things in my work. Summer of Art is a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else. Art is taught in an open environment, which invites cooperation and allows new friendships to flourish.

Lauryn IpsumLauryn Ipsum

Attended Summer 2006 and 2007; Currently a working artist and graphic designer specializing in book design

I’ve been drawing for as long as I could hold a pencil, so creating art wasn’t exactly new to me. I’d taken numerous after-school art classes throughout my life, but what I hadn’t previously experienced was a rigorous academic setting in which the arts were presented as a viable career path. I wanted to engage in an immersive, full-time art program that would provide college preparation. A memorable aspect of the program was learning to properly paint with acrylics for the first time. Up until that point, all my painting abilities had been self-taught, and I was astonished by how much I improved simply by learning the correct techniques. I decided to attend Summer of Art a second time because of how dramatically I saw my skills improve the first time, and because I knew I still had a lot to learn, and the program was the perfect environment to do that in. I would highly encourage it to anyone seriously considering studying art in college, and/or anyone who likes the idea of spending your summer making art all day. Be prepared for a heavy workload—it can catch you off guard at first, but don’t let it intimidate you or discourage you from enrolling in the program. Summer of Art was crucial in the development of my painting and drawing skills, and aided me in putting together my portfolio for college applications. It was a great way to spend my summers, and if I had to go back, it’d definitely do it all over again.

Vanessa QuilesVanessa Quiles

Attended Summer 2015; Received her BFA in Architecture/Interiors/Landscape from Otis College in 2020

I attended Summer of Art because I had been accepted to a program that provided students from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to participate in a summer program of their choice in the Los Angeles area, and Otis was the first art college that was mentioned to me when I expressed my concerns about not wanting to pursue a field such as engineering or law, but feeling the pressure to do so. I had no idea what to expect, as I had never taken an art class before and had just learned that art college existed. The most exciting aspect was being in a completely new environment that was so different from my school experience. Being surrounded by other creatives was comforting and uplifting because it gave me hope that pursuing a career in a creative field was possible for someone like me. One of the classes I took was an Architecture/Landscape/Interiors course, where I learned that I loved designing buildings and their interiors. It was a new and exciting way of expressing my creativity in a non-performing way. It taught me that there were career choices that combined both creative and technical skills. When the program was over and I started my senior year of high school, I applied to colleges intending to pursue architecture as a career. Summer of Art is definitely a program I’d recommend to high school students who are considering pursuing a creative field in the future. It allows you to get a glimpse of what your future could be like and, if you’re lucky, it’ll excite you the same way it excited me.

Lauryn Ipsum’s Tips for Summer of Art

  • Don’t put your homework off until the last minute because it isn’t the sort of thing you can rush through.
  • Load yourself up on audiobooks and your favorite podcasts to listen to while you work.
  • Treat your art supplies well! If you’re painting, make sure to always wash your brushes carefully, and don’t ever leave them bristles-down for long periods in cups of water. That’s an excellent way to ruin them—I learned this the hard way.
  • Most importantly, have fun. Don’t feel like everything you make needs to be a masterpiece, try and push yourself to go out of your comfort zone, and allow yourself to experiment.

Registration for the 2021 Summer of Art season ends on June 4. For more information and to register, please visit To view student work that was created during last year's virtual Summer of Art program, please visit this link

Main image: Photo of MarcAnthony Pellici Smith by Fawad Assadullah. Photo of Lauryn Ipsum provided by Lauryn Ipsum. Photo of Vanessa Quiles by Fawad Assadullah.