While researching colleges online, natural-born creative Elliot Gale discovered a hidden gem in Beverly, Massachusetts — it was called Montserrat College of Art. Drawn to its intimate community, unique apartment-style dorms and diverse array of classes, he knew he found a second home that could nurture his artistic interests.
“I am a graphic design major and I do a lot of work that falls under that umbrella, but I am also a painter and ultimately an artist at heart,” he says. “I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to explore both of these focuses here.”
Gale was even more pleased to have chosen a college that seamlessly bridges academia and the professional realm. A defining feature of Montserrat’s approach is its emphasis on practical exposure and the preparation required to embark on such opportunities with confidence.
“All students start their internship journeys in our Pre-Internship class, which helps them prepare application materials, research their options, and apply for a variety of internships,” explains faculty member Beth Price Morgan. “The final exam is a mock interview with a creative professional in their field!”
Montserrat’s Internship Advisor helps aspiring interns apply for opportunities across the globe. Gale interned with a local chamber of commerce, where he designed flyers, logos, packaging and branding for a new gift certificate initiative the company was launching.
The experience helped him realise the importance of creative freedom in his work. “It taught me that in the future I want to work with a group of people on projects that allow us to try new things and express our creative minds, similar to how my experience at Montserrat has been,” he explains.
Indeed, the Montserrat experience is experiential in every sense of the word. Back on campus, Gale applies knowledge as a student worker for the Career Design Studio, where Morgan serves as director. The studio was designed to shape students’ real-world understanding of being an artist by integrating professional practice into coursework through supplementary programming.
The studio offers a workshop called Designing Your Montserrat — a 100% online, tuition-free summer course for students entering their second year. Sessions see students working closely with professionals and alumni whose shoes they hope to one day fill. At the same time, they get a better understanding of the diverse career paths a Montserrat qualification can unlock.
The programme culminates with “My 3 Montserrat,” a four-year plan that proposes three different, yet equally fulfilling, paths through Montserrat to their first year after graduation. Hence why student Abby Phelps describes the collective Designing Your Montserrat journey as “summer camp for figuring out your life and education”.
The studio also hosts panels and presentations by creative professionals and alumni throughout the year to further help students gain valuable insights. “We’re also really into networking, and make sure students have multiple opportunities a year to chat with creative professionals and employers, and conduct workshops on how to network,” explains Morgan.
These interactions often evolve into mentorships — a key component of Montserrat’s student support framework. All students can apply for a mentor, facilitating hour-long bi-weekly sessions to aid in their transition from college to career. It’s a personalised touch that leads to outstanding outcomes.
“For example, one of our students visited the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston with their mentor, Tom Maio, who had previously been an employee there,” Morgan says. “They networked with Tom’s former coworkers during the trip, and had some great conversations. Before graduation, they applied for an Art Handler position at the ICA and were hired.”
Gale is benefiting from mentorship, too. So far, his mentor has helped reimagine the structure and aesthetic of his portfolio website and resume. The collaboration even extended to the heart of Gale’s academic journey — his senior thesis project. Insights and feedback elevated the depths of his artistic expression.
“It was wonderful to have one-on-one feedback with a working professional who was doing a balance of graphic design and fine art-related work, similar to what I’d love to do one day,” says the student. “She also introduced me to several other professional designers and I got to make new connections and learn about the industry through them.”
Interested? Montserrat’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Arts is your ticket to the full experience. The programme offers an array of options — 12 concentrations and five minors, to be exact. As industries evolve, so will this lineup. In fact, the college recently introduced two new concentrations: Games, Toys, and Play, as well as Writing and Visual Narratives. To pinpoint your best pathway into the interconnected world of the arts, click here.