Sculpture programs teach people how to create works of art in three dimensions using clay, plaster, stone, and other materials. Students learn about form, shape, and composition. They study techniques to carve, mold, and cast sculptures.
Think of the most beautiful sculpture you have seen. Perhaps it is Rodin's "The Thinker." Or you may be moved by the sculpture of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Like other art forms, sculpture has the power to evoke deep emotions in people.
Before the 1900s, sculpture was mostly representational - that is to say, it resembled something or someone. Then, abstract sculpture emerged, adding specialties such as kinetic and environmental sculpture.
In kinetic sculpture, something moves. As the sculptor, you may use water, mechanical devices, or air currents to create movement. Kinetic sculptures serve as both objects and events.
In environmental sculpture, the art involves or surrounds the spectator. As the sculptor, you may use light and sound as well as traditional media. For indoor work, you might create a detailed setting for your sculpture. In outdoor work, you might take on larger projects such as wrapping buildings or engaging nature on a grand scale. For example, some sculptors incorporate earth materials into sculptures and even use heavy equipment to sculpt earth on a grand scale.
In sculpture programs, your course work teaches you basic art principles such as art history, drawing, and design. You learn basic principles of sculpture, including how to use different materials such as clay, soapstone, and metal. You learn structural principles too – after all, your pieces need to be able to stand up (if you want them to!)
After mastering the basic skills, you then take courses that allow you to develop your specific style. You can focus on working with bronze to create lifelike forms, for example. Or you can use several different materials in one large abstract sculpture. In general, most courses are designed to give you ample time in a studio where you create your own style and focus on a particular method of creating your work.
Many colleges and universities offer programs that lead to the bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree and the master of fine arts (MFA) degree. Community colleges and independent schools of art and design also offer studio training and programs in sculpture. They may lead to associate of art (AA) degrees.
It takes four to five years after high school to earn a BFA degree and six to seven years to earn an MFA degree. The MFA is considered a "terminal" degree, meaning that you do not need a doctorate if you desire to teach at the college level. However, a few schools do offer doctorate degrees in sculpture. Keep in mind that graduate study is almost always offered through a larger art and fine arts program, so be sure to read this program of study as well.