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Fine arts graduates meet a rapidly evolving future—here’s how the liberal arts foster resilience

students lying in the grass
February 27, 2024
Meghan O'Toole

Now more than ever, students and families are questioning the value not only of higher education, but also of art degrees. Fine arts degrees are increasingly seen as a luxury in an economy hyper-focused on profit and technological advancement. However, the idea that majoring in the arts stifles what a graduate can achieve is a limiting perspective.

The liberal arts equip all graduates with a diverse and transferable skillset. For fine arts majors, this means cultivating and honing a passion alongside developing a deeper understanding their work in the context of the world beyond our gates. The liberal arts combine the rigor of a traditional fine arts program with a balanced approach that produces more professionally nimble and pragmatic graduates.  

Learn about how Lake Forest College is celebrating the fine arts and helping students find their unique paths to rewarding careers.

What does "liberal arts" mean?

A liberal arts education emphasizes the development of critical thinking and analytical skills, the ability to solve complex problems, and ethics and morality, as well as a desire to continue to learn.

How does a liberal arts education accomplish this? By pushing students beyond a narrow field of interest. A liberal arts education puts students in a variety of courses that focus on arts, humanities, sciences, and more, and students not only learn how each of these fields overlaps, but how they connect to the broader world and the future.

student peering through microscope

Assistant Professor of Studio Art Susy Bielak brings her background as a professional working artist to her teaching.

“What attracted me to teaching in a liberal arts context was that I view art as a means to think critically and continually find one's voice and perspective and share it,” Bielak said. “Art can be a way of situating ourselves in the world personally, professionally, and more, and this is what I instill in my students.”

When it comes to the fine arts, giving students a wide breadth of knowledge and skills not only enriches their artistic pursuits, but also equips them with a more pragmatic understanding of the world that can help them see multiple paths after graduation, not just one.

“How people create and consume the arts is massively shifting,” Associate Professor of Music and Chair of Music Scott Edgar said. “We at Lake Forest College are staying ahead of the curve to prepare our students for a multitude of realities on the other side of graduation with flexible skills.”

students looking at art

scott edgar
I don't think it's ever responsible to leave higher education with only one set of skills. There are so many curveballs that come at us, especially in today's world.
Associate Professor of Music and Chair of Music Scott Edgar

Fine arts are the real world

Studying the fine arts—art and art history, music, theater, music education, creative writing, cinema studies, and more—is arguably just as important to human and societal development as degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The fine arts foster critical thinking, cultivate communication and expression, provide historical and cultural insight, enable in-depth personal growth, and instill a wealth of transferable skills.

Within the liberal arts, students are encouraged to expand their interests, which helps them find success after graduation. That success can look like anything from starting a business, pursuing graduate degrees, landing a secure career, and more.  

Michelle Tkachenko Weaver ’25 is double majoring in business and music, a combination that will help get her closer to her dream of owning her own concert venue or helping organize music festivals. 

“I initially wanted to go into business and then eventually started taking music classes and realized it was a big passion of mine, and  I should look into the business side of music,” she said. “I get a wide view of both the business and music sides. It’s given me a lot of ideas.”

Currently, Tkachenko Weaver is interning with The Syndicate, a promotional label based in New Jersey.

Lake Forest College understands that the fine arts play a key part in nourishing students as well as supporting the cultural enrichment of campus. Foresters study and apply foundational creative and expressive skills they learn in the fine arts so they graduate equipped to effect change in the world beyond our gates.

students in a music ensemble

"I don't think it's ever responsible to leave higher education with only one set of skills. There are so many curveballs that come at us, especially in today's world," Edgar said. "I knew I always wanted to be a music teacher, but if I wanted to be a successful performer today, I would need to be able to play in a symphony, a jazz band, a pit orchestra, and bugle calls. But I would also need to know how to market myself, how to understand finances, how to fundraise, and more.”

Having such a broad set of skills is not just a luxury, but a necessity for artists and performers in today’s world. Chair of Theater and Associate Professor of Theater and Performance Studies Chloe Johnston sees Lake Forest College students prepared for this reality.

“One of the things I love about our students is that they tend to be down to earth and practical. They are very creative and curious, but they also want to know what the material they are learning all means in the real world," Johnston said.

The interdisciplinary advantage

The liberal arts curriculum sets students apart by immersing them in interdisciplinary study. This crossover primes students to think beyond their interests; they see how their interests intersect with other fields of study, and thus how they might find a substantial career that nurtures multiple interests.

Bielak is currently teaching a cross-disciplinary course that focuses on radical women and centers on super-contemporary Latina artists. “The course is research-based, but students can make their own path with each project. They can do art, creative writing, and analytic writing projects in this course,” Bielak explained.

The benefit of a strong fine arts involvement in the liberal arts is not limited to fine arts majors and minors. Many students who choose not to major in the fine arts still engage in music ensembles and theater groups.

Edgar explained, "When I am directing band, the interdisciplinarity comes from the students and shifts from semester to semester. It depends on what their majors and interests are within the commonality that they are all musicians. For some of our students, they are biology majors and do that exceptionally well, but they still have a musician identity we help them nurture and uphold."

However, those who do double major or minor within the fine arts find that the interdisciplinarity enriches their studies.

theater production photo

“This year’s senior theater seminar is an example of the power of interdisciplinary learning within the fine arts,” Johnston said. “All of the students are double majors; in addition to theater, they are studying math, business, neuroscience, digital media and design, marketing, education, and sociology and anthropology. They are all designing senior projects that integrate their areas of study in a way that benefits them and other people.”

For French and chemistry double major Atlas Gregory ’26, minoring in music is just one way to stay engaged with their coursework on a higher level. “When I do too much of the same thing, it’s hard to get all of my work done,” they said. “It’s easier for me to be motivated to do things when I have a problem set but am analyzing a French poem and composing that same day. It makes the work more fun and less repetitive.”

chloe johnston
Our job is to prepare students to make new things, not simply to fit into existing systems. That’s what we try to do.
Chair of Theater and Associate Professor of Theater and Performance Studies Chloe Johnston

Understanding a changing world

The world is changing. With AI technology becoming part of everyday life and sharp economic divides shaping consumer habits, creative problem-solving and human connection are needed more than ever.

Johnston is confident that her students can meet these challenges.

“I’d argue that fine arts students are graduating at an exciting time precisely because so much is changing rapidly,” Johnston said. “I see theaters around the country remaking themselves in new ways, reimagining structures to be more inclusive, creative, and challenging. Our job is to prepare students to make new things, not simply to fit into existing systems. That’s what we try to do.”

Fine arts skills are a natural fit for this changing world, which requires creative thinkers and people who are willing to do the work to understand each other.

Suma Pasupulati ’24 applies these skills from her neuroscience major and her theater major in her work as a lab assistant for Lecturer Frederick Prete, who is applying haptics to create mobility aids for the visually impaired.

“Neuroscience and theater are both about really getting to the root of why people function and behave the way they do,” Pasupulati explained. “These two fields interact in many ways most people don't even realize.”

suma and fellow student working on a cane

According to Edgar, the fine arts have the unique capacity to unite disciplines that are seemingly far apart and help people access them more readily.

“I see the music department as a prism: when the student light comes through, it refracts into all areas of campus,” Edgar said. “I see music as science, music as mathematics, music as history, music as literature, and so on. When we study music cohesively through a liberal arts context, our musicians are more thoughtful, more critical, and more understanding of how music can be a binding force on our campus and in the world.”

When we study music cohesively through a liberal arts context, our musicians are more thoughtful, more critical, and more understanding of how music can be a binding force on our campus and in the world.

Staying nimble for career preparation

To prepare for life after graduation, Lake Forest College students are given a variety of skills to help them understand how to support and advocate for themselves as artists.

Tkachenko Weaver was part of Lecturer in Music Daniel Schwartz’s Creative Arts Entrepreneurship class, which offers an overview of the processes, practices, and decision-making activities that lead to the realization of creative ideas. Through the class, students from across the humanities, arts, sciences, and business learn the unique contexts and challenges of creative careers while also learning to collaborate. The course helps students understand the nature and structure of arts enterprise while cultivating their own career vision and creative goals.

students networking

Tkachenko Weaver found that this class gave her and her peers foundational skills that helped contextualize their fine arts interests: “The class helped us think about how to treat our art as a business. If you are a writer or artist, how do you get your art to become money? We learned so much about event planning, grant writing, and building and marketing to an audience.”

Lake Forest College professors focus on providing this kind of education through all disciplines. By centering experiential learning, the College ensures students go into the job market with practical knowledge they can point to on a resume.

Admissions Counselor and Fine Arts Liaison Jake Gately said, “The very process of taking yourself seriously as an artist in college by attending rehearsals and putting in practice automatically serves your future because it allows you to become nimble and pivot in the future.”

Lake Forest College’s fine arts students embrace creative solutions and pursue art careers that are informed by practical experiences.

Jasmine Carag ’24, a studio art and computer science double major with a minor in digital media design, sees herself as a double threat: “Double majoring opens up more venues for me to have a career in. I feel like my interests change a lot, and now I have two doors open where I could pursue an art career, pursue a computer science career, or pursue them both through web design.”

Edgar explained that many music education programs prepare students to be a band director, choir director, or orchestra director, but not all three. Lake Forest College graduates are prepared for this breadth of work while also being equipped with a pragmatic mindset that enables them to become professionally nimble.

Edgar said, "We don't believe that our students can leave Lake Forest knowing only how to do music education in one way. We give them a diverse set of skills that prepares them for anything life may throw at them. I always consider how we can prepare music majors for life after college responsibly."

Fostering art connections for students of all majors

Foresters have a wealth of opportunities to engage in the fine arts through their studies. Whether they're majoring or minoring in the fine arts or just exploring a passion for the arts while working toward a different degree, there are endless ways to sustain involvement in creation, performance, and enjoyment of the arts.

Here are just a few ways students of all majors engage with the arts:

  • Participating in one of the eight music ensembles on campus
  • Taking part in a theater performance as a cast member, musician, or production member
  • Attending on-campus exhibits in the Sonnenschein and Albright galleries
  • Creating art in one of our many studio classes
  • Taking trips to Chicago to soak in the vibrant culture of the nation's third-largest city

The College’s art collection numbers over 1,200 pieces and is eclectic in nature. It consists of paintings, drawings, 19th and 20th century prints, both digital and printed photographs, modern art glass, Asian ceramics, Meso-American artifacts, African masks, and monumental outdoor sculptures. Works of art are used for teaching purposes through formal exhibitions and informal class visits of the gallery storage facilities. Pieces from the collection are used to aesthetically enhance almost every building on campus. In the true spirit of the liberal arts, we believe in the importance of living with art daily.

We believe that the artistic vision and talent students bring to campus enriches our community. That's why Lake Forest College offers talent-based scholarships in music, studio art, and theater. Fine arts scholarships are available to both majors and non-majors.

Fine Arts Majors at Lake Forest College



Through opera or hip hop, violin or harmonica, music students at Lake Forest collaborate with professors whose own interests range from world music to electronica.

Art and Art History

Art and Art History

Studio students learn painting, drawing, video, multimedia, sculpture, photography, printmaking, and more. Our students of art history learn how to use visual material in the analysis of society, economics, politics, and religion.



The theater program at Lake Forest College merges active learning, creative expression, artistic development, and historical and theoretical understanding. Majoring in theater puts students in a dynamic and immersive learning environment where they make connections and learn skills that lay the foundation for a career beyond graduation.


Music Education

The study of music education at Lake Forest combines music theory, history and culture of music, and music performance with rigorous study in the practical art of teaching strings, winds and percussion, elemental and secondary general music, and instrumental and choral ensembles.

English and Creative Writing

English and Creative Writing

The Department of English and Creative Writing offers courses for all students who wish to enrich their understanding of literature and language and to develop their skills as readers and writers, enabling them to lead constructive and imaginative lives.

Museum Studies

Museum Studies

Lake Forest College’s minor in museum studies provides students from a wide range of majors a chance to study the theory and practice of displaying such collections for educational and cultural purposes.

Print and Digital Publishing

Print and Digital Publishing

The Print and Digital Publishing Program prepares students for careers in the publishing industry as well as in fields that require exceptional skills in expository writing. 

Cinema Studies

Cinema Studies

Cinema Studies courses focus on the history, theory, culture, and criticism of film and video, in addition to encouraging hands-on experience in digital video production, setting students up for successful cinema careers.

Digital Media Design

Digital Media Design

Our interdisciplinary Digital Media Design program bridges the arts and sciences by providing students with both technical knowledge and an understanding of aesthetics.