March 02 2016

Traditional Philosophy of Fine Art Enjoys Growing Popularity as College Celebrates

OLD LYME, CONN. – In the Connecticut shoreline town of Old Lyme, the waterside idyll that nurtured the artistic visions of the American Impressionists, a college that has for decades fostered radical notions of art celebrates its 40th year with its largest enrollment in history.
Events, exhibits, lectures and more will mark the anniversary and can be found at
Lyme Academy College of Fine Art has survived in the face of ridicule from those who abandoned a traditional approach to art training years ago, and in the face of floods, fire, and financial distress.
And now it is enjoying a renaissance, as the art world acknowledges the importance of the type of fundamental art instruction to which Lyme Academy College has rigorously adhered to and advocated for: a focus on drawing, painting, sculpture and, more recently, illustration.
“Here at Lyme, we learn the skills first, then in senior year we can break the rules,” said Teagan McLarnen of California, a senior majoring in painting at Lyme Academy College.
As Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts grows and marks its second year as a college of the University of New Haven, its focus on foundational skills in art has made it a torch-bearer for the fundamentals and for the embrace of theory in art.
“It’s a matter of starting first with the fundamentals,” said Lyme faculty member and illustrator Jon Sideriadis, who has worked in Los Angeles in numerous feature films. “When you think of Picasso, he was a brilliant realistic painter. It’s why he had so many different phases, because he had that strong foundation; he didn’t have to hold back because he knew how to do everything. Every artist needs a complete, well-rounded skillset so their creative process is boundless.”
In the middle of the 20th Century, many art schools reduced or dropped their basic skills classes, said Gwen Pier, the executive director of the National Sculpture Society in New York.
Lyme’s entire philosophy, though, advocated by its founder, sculptor Elisabeth Gordon Chandler, was built on the fundamentals of art: the mastery of the basic skills.
It was one of the few schools that held fast to that notion. “Regardless of whether an emerging artist goes on to become a ‘realist’ or an ‘abstract’ painter, illustrator, or sculptor, those skills provide an important foundation for their work,” Pier said.
“At the National Sculpture Society, we receive inquiries from young sculptors across the country in search of an educational institution where they can learn anatomy, life drawing, and how to create a work of realist or figurative sculpture. Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts is one of the schools we direct them to.”
The Representational Art Conference in Ventura, Calif., now draws hundreds of artists to its doors each year. Art associations are acknowledging the importance of foundational skills; when prospective students come calling, one of the primary destinations those associations point to is Lyme. Aspiring artists throughout the nation, once they learn of Lyme Academy College, are enrolling and, in many cases, transferring, from existing programs at other art schools.
Lyme values anatomy and perspective in a way other art schools don’t, said Sideriadis.  “It’s basically anatomy and perspective boot camp.”
Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts is a college of the University of New Haven. Its mission is to educate aspiring artists through a rigorous studio curriculum rooted in figurative and representational art. The college offers a comprehensive liberal arts education essential for advanced critical and creative thought. For more information, visit
The University of New Haven is a private, top-tier comprehensive institution recognized as a national leader in experiential education. Founded in 1920 the university enrolls approximately 1,800 graduate students and more than 4,600 undergraduates.

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