By Jeremy Ogul
As an admissions representative for the Art Institute of California’s San Diego campus, John Sexton got calls almost every day from people who just wanted to try out a class. These were people who did not want a degree in graphic design or culinary management; they just wanted to learn how to draw or work on their knife skills.
For years, Sexton had to turn them down. Taking a class or two was never an option — until now.
In a new pilot program, the Art Institute is opening the doors of its Mission Valley campus and inviting teenagers and adults to come in and learn something new without committing to a long-term degree program. Dubbed “GETCreative,” the program is similar to extended studies courses offered by San Diego State or UC San Diego, but the GETCreative program focuses on hands-on classes in the Art Institute’s specialty disciplines: culinary, fashion, design and media arts.
Some of the upcoming course options include “Basic Drawing Techniques,” “A Day in the Sushi Kitchen,” “Photography 1: Introduction to DSLR Photography” and “Elements of Garment Construction.”
These courses are an opportunity for people to experience the Art Institute’s facilities, test out a career path, fine-tune a creative passion or develop a professional skill, all with the guidance of an industry professional excited about teaching, said Sexton, who is now the program coordinator.
“We’ve got a lot of great people with a lot of great knowledge to share,” Sexton said. “The idea is you don’t have to quit your job. You can come and do 15 hours and know enough to design a poster, for example.”
The program just started in September, so school administrators are still experimenting with course offerings and formats. The culinary arts happen to be the most popular discipline for degree-seeking students at the San Diego campus, so many of the GETCreative courses focus on food and drink.
One recent course offering was “Red Velvet Cupcakes and More.” Students had a chance to practice their baking skills with an expert chef using the equipment in the school’s professional teaching kitchen.
“I had everyone in there from a high school senior who is just kind of finding her way, to a woman who already had her own cake business,” Sexton said.
In another recent offering, Groundswell Brewing Company President Kevin Rhodes led a course on pairing craft beer with gourmet food. Rhodes, who teaches beverage and culinary classes at the Art Institute when he’s not perfecting beer recipes at Groundswell’s brewery in Grantville, gave students a brief overview of the flavor dynamics of beer and how to complement various combinations of malt and hops with gourmet dishes.
Rhodes talked about how the extra-bitter, super-hoppy beers that have become popular in San Diego are often a poor choice for pairing with food.
“I’m not gonna spend $20 or $30 on a steak and pair it with a double IPA,” he said. “There’s a reason there are beers out there called ‘Palate Wrecker’ and ‘Tongue Buckler.’”
Another tip Rhodes offered: Keep bitter beer away from spicy food. Malty beers are a better choice for such dishes.
As Rhodes lectured, students were treated to multiple pairings: a blonde ale paired with dried apricots and bread; a ginger saison paired with a spring mix salad dressed in a ginger-orange-mango vinaigrette; a tropical hefeweizen paired with honey sriracha popcorn chicken; and a mocha milk stout paired with cheesecake in a stout reduction.
Tuition for the three-hour course, with all food and drink included, was $125.
That’s about average for the one-session courses. Courses with multiple sessions tend to have higher tuition. The “Basic Drawing Techniques” course, which meets every Thursday night for five weeks, has a tuition cost of $260.
The Art Institute of California’s San Diego campus is part of a larger network of more than 50 schools throughout North America under the Argosy University umbrella. Only two other campuses — in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. — were selected for the pilot program.
For a list of upcoming course offerings, visit getcreative.artinstitutes.edu/sandiego.