Programs in art and fine arts, general, teach people the history and theory of visual and performing arts. Students learn to work in at least one artistic medium such as painting, sculpture, or photography. Students also learn to create an artist's portfolio to promote and market their work.
The well-known writer Virginia Woolf once claimed that "A woman must have money and a room of one's own if she is to write." As you can see, she was speaking on behalf of all women writers who fall under the category "starving artist." This category still exists today.
But maybe we can think about Woolf's proclamation in a broader sense - beyond money and physical space. As an artist, in what kind of "room" would you prefer to live? How would you arrange and decorate that room to fit your needs for self-expression? How do you plan to "get" to this room?
The fact is, the fine arts field is a wide one and your role as an artist can be as spacious or as focused as you want it to be. But without an opportunity to explore the options open to you, how will you know that you've settled in the right room? What if you chose to pursue graphic design but really would have grown as a painter? What if you didn't realize that music studies would have added a whole other dimension to your film studio (or "room")?
The art and fine arts, general, program of study provides you with a way of exploring your artistic identity and needs. You can study basic concepts in the visual arts such as perspective, color, and composition. You can also experiment with performing arts, taking courses in dance or acting, or taking private lessons in vocal or instrumental music. Various other avenues of exploration abound.
As a student in this program, you also consider the practical utility associated with different art forms. You balance this with an understanding of the history and theories of fine arts mediums. You might, for example, study the history of textile design and trace its development to cultural changes. At the same time, you could learn to weave your own textiles. You can see how this program of study introduces you to a balanced approach to art: practice and theory combined.
It also helps prepare you for a wide range of careers. You could pursue multimedia art and create special effects for ads, films, videos, TV commercials, and the Internet. You could pursue a career in the performing arts, either on stage or in front of the camera, or behind the scenes, making sure every production runs smoothly. You could act as an artistic medium yourself, modeling clothes and other products. These are just a few of the many possibilities open to you.
Many colleges and universities offer associate and bachelor's degree programs in general art and fine arts. Graduate degree programs in this field tend to be more specialized. Generally, an associate degree takes about two years of full-time study after high school. In some cases, you may be able to transfer these credits to a bachelor's degree program. Otherwise, earning a bachelor's degree usually takes about four years of full-time study.
Proprietary schools also provide studio training and degrees in the visual and performing arts. These independent art institutes may grant certificates, associate, and bachelor's degrees, which typically take anywhere from one to four years to earn.