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15 Summer Art Programs for High School Students

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Summer programs are a great way to enrich your time between academic years, especially if you want to explore subject areas or deepen specific knowledge and skills that you wouldn’t otherwise have time for during the year. For students who are interested in visual arts, there are many summer programs out there for you to pursue your passion while surrounded by other aspiring artists. While many pre-college programs are on the pricey side, many of the ones listed here are free or offer significant tuition assistance. One thing to keep in mind is that while most programs are residential or in-person, many have either transitioned entirely online or offer a virtual option due to COVID-19. 


Summer Art Programs


1. City Art Lab


Dates: Spring and summer 

Location: New York, NY   

Application deadline: NA  

Cost: Free 


City Art Lab is a free arts program for teens, based in City College of New York (CCNY). The program joins CCNY’s Art Education graduate students with local youth to collaborate on community-based art projects. High schoolers can explore new materials and methods with practicing artists, develop their own artwork for a portfolio, and learn about college life on a Manhattan campus, all while meeting other artistically-inclined teens from all over NYC. Each program session concludes with an art exhibition to celebrate each year’s high school artists. 


2. Academy of Art University Pre-College Art Experience 


Dates: June 25‚ÄďAugust 26¬†

Location: San Francisco, CA or virtual   

Application deadline: Rolling  

Cost: Free


The Pre-College Art Experience (PCAE) at Academy of Art University is a tuition-free art and design education program for high school students. The Academy of Art University is a private art school in San Francisco, California. The Pre-College Art Experience is a scholarship program that funds high school students so that they can explore artistic fields, gain confidence in their creative skills, and jump start their artistic careers. Students who apply and are accepted into the Pre-College Art Experience take courses across the arts disciplines. For every course that a student passes, they will receive $1,000 to apply to their undergraduate tuition at the Academy of Art University. The PCAE is available for the fall, spring, and summer semesters. 


3. MOCA Teen Program 


Dates: Year-long  

Location: Los Angeles, CA   

Application deadline: NA  

Cost: Free


Based in LA, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Teen Program brings high school juniors and seniors behind the scenes to learn about the museum, contemporary art, artists, and other creative careers. The program is an academic-year-long, paid position that encourages teens to learn about the work of the museum by directly involving them in the behind-the-scenes of MOCA. This group meets at the museum on Thursday nights and some weekends to work with museum professionals, investigate current exhibitions, make art, plan Teen Night and support each other on a journey of self-discovery. The program requires students to commit 2 hours a week. 


4. Student Gallery Guides at The Getty Museum 


Dates: June 15‚ÄďJuly 30¬†

Location: Los Angeles, CA   

Application deadline: NA  

Cost: Free


One of several programs for high school students hosted by The Getty Museum, the Student Gallery Guide program is a paid summer internship opportunity for teens interested in learning the fundamentals of museum education. Interns are trained to lead guided experiences with the Getty Center’s collection for visiting K-12 summer groups. This is a great opportunity for high schoolers with an interest in art to also develop public speaking and facilitation skills. Transportation to and from the Getty Center, as well as a stipend of roughly $1,800, is provided to each intern on the final day of the internship, based on successful completion of the program.


5. New York State Summer School of the Arts 


Dates: July 5‚ÄďJuly 30¬†

Location: Virtual  

Application deadline: NA  

Cost: Free


An eminent recurring annual program under the NY State Education Program, the New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) offers a visual arts program that runs for four weeks. The program provides students the opportunity to interact with working professional artists through daily workshops, lectures and critiques. Each studio workshop will meet once a week. Workshops include group critiques where students have a chance to present their work and receive feedback from the instructor and peers. The NYSSSA program is partially funded by the NY State Education Program, and tuition assistance is also available.  


6. California State Summer School for the Arts 


Dates: NA

Location: Sacramento, CA  

Application deadline: NA  

Cost: $2,350


The California State Summer School for the Arts, commonly known as CSSSA, is a rigorous four-week, pre-professional visual and performing arts training program for high school students held each summer at the California Institute of the Arts. The Visual Arts Program is dedicated to helping students meet the challenges of contemporary art making through assigned lessons. All students are assigned studio classes based on the interests they indicate on their application forms. The department offers studio classes in ceramics, digital media, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. The comprehensive fee covering room, board and tuition for California State residents for four weeks is $2,350; for out-of-state residents, the fee is $6,850. Scholarships are awarded on a need-based basis, though only to California residents. 


7. University of Michigan Stamps Pre-College Program 


Dates: May 2‚ÄďJune 8¬†

Location: Ann Arbor, MI or virtual

Application deadline: March 15   

Cost: $245‚Äď$295


Stamps Pre-Col¬≠lege Pro¬≠grams at the University of Michigan are offered in the spring and summer to high school stu¬≠dents (grades 9‚ÄČ‚Äď‚ÄČ12) inter¬≠ested in build¬≠ing new skills for their cre¬≠ative pur¬≠suits. Stu¬≠dents receive per¬≠son¬≠al¬≠ized train¬≠ing and advice from Stamps fac¬≠ulty and staff on build¬≠ing a com¬≠pet¬≠i¬≠tive art port¬≠fo¬≠lio. Studio classes offered include: 4D animation, drawing, 3D exploration, and portfolio prep. Partial and full scholarships are available on a need-based basis.¬†


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8. RISD Pre-Collegiate Program


Dates: June 25‚ÄďAugust 5¬†

Location: Providence, RI

Application deadline: Rolling. February 1 for scholarship applications

Cost: $10,850


Offered by one of the top art and design schools in the US, the Rhode Island School of Design Pre-Collegiate Programs is a 6-week residential program that offers high school students a chance to experience life as a RISD undergraduate. Students follow a college-level curriculum with day-long studio classes, critiques, and final projects. Hundreds of students from around the world participate each year, and interested students will submit an application including written responses. A limited number of scholarships are available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who demonstrate significant financial need, passion and dedication to art and design, and interest and commitment to the program.


9. Oxbow Summer Art Institute 


Dates: June 18‚ÄďJuly 31¬†

Location: Napa, CA

Application deadline: Rolling. 

Cost: $16,000


The Oxbow Summer Art Institute, located in Napa, California, is an 6-week immersive summer visual art residency open to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors as well as those taking a gap year after high school. Students receive an entire year’s worth of studio art credit with an official high school transcript from Oxbow. The program is grounded in the philosophy that there is no limit to what adolescents can create when provided an open-minded environment with high-level instruction, personal and collective accountability, and support. There is a limited number of scholarships available to cover the comprehensive tuition of $16,000. 


10. Parsons Summer Intensive Studies NYC 


Dates: July 6‚ÄďJuly 21

Location: New York, NY

Application deadline: June 30 

Cost: $3,475


The three-week, three-credit art and design program at Parsons immerses rising juniors and seniors, as well as recent high school graduates, in the New York college environment of one of the most prominent design schools nationwide. Students dive deep into creative practices such as fine arts, illustration, photography, animation, graphic design, fashion design, product design, architecture, interior design, and design management. Students also have the opportunity to attend art and design field trips and meet industry professionals.All studio courses are geared toward developing and enhancing college application portfolios. The comprehensive tuition is $3,475. 


11. Otis College of Art and Design Summer of Art


Dates: July 6‚ÄďJuly 30

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Application deadline: Rolling 

Cost: $1,000‚Äď$2,700


The intensive, four-week program at Otis College of Art and Design is aimed towards students 15 and older who seek to strengthen and enhance their art and design skills. Students are taught by award-winning practicing artists. The program includes drawing studio courses, as well as specialization courses, which deepen skills in a specific area of artistic study, such as architecture, concept art, digital media, graphic design, and printmaking. The program also includes lectures and final critiques. There are merit-based scholarships as well as need-based scholarships available. 


12. Ringling College of Art and Design PreCollege 


Dates: June 9‚ÄďJuly 16 in-person. July 10‚ÄďAugust 5 virtual.

Location: Sarasota, FL or virtual

Application deadline: May 8 

Cost: $6,500 in-person. $3,995 virtual. 


Located in Florida, Ringling College offers an intensive 4-week that teaches students the fundamentals of art and design, allows them to earn college credit, and meet like-minded artists from around the world. The program revolves around core classes for fundamental skill-building, as well as immersions for deeper investigation in areas of interest. Some unique immersions include: computer animation, game art, storyboarding, and digital sculpting. 


13. The Putney School Summer Arts 


Dates: July 2‚ÄďJuly 30

Location: Putney, VT

Application deadline: Rolling 

Cost: TBD


Located in Southern Vermont, The Putney School Summer Arts is a 4-week long technology-free arts program for teens. The Putney School focuses on process over product, and stresses its supportive environment. In addition to more conventional mediums like painting and sculpture, students have the opportunity to choose workshops in mediums such as textile arts, fiber arts, metal jewelry, and ceramics. Applications require work samples and teacher references. Partial tuition assistance is available. 


14. California College of Arts Pre-College 


Dates: July 7‚ÄďAugust 3 in-person. June 28‚ÄďJuly 30 virtual.¬†

Location: San Francisco, CA or virtual

Application deadline: Rolling. March 22 for scholarship applications.  

Cost: $3,900 in-person. $3,750 virtual. 


Set on CCA’s San Francisco campus, the Pre-College program runs for four weeks and is offered to students who have completed at least their sophomore year in high school by the summer they attend the program. Students take studio-focused, college-level courses to help push beyond concepts to portfolio-ready pieces while having the option to earn 3 college credits. CCA Pre-College is usually a residential program, and students benefit from San Francisco’s museums during their stay. In addition to more traditional mediums such as painting and drawing, areas of potential study include comics, industrial design, and game design. 


15. Las Fotos Project 


Dates: Year-round. 

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Application deadline: January and July/August  

Cost: Free 


Las Fotos Project is a community-based nonprofit organization in LA that inspires teenage girls through photography, mentorship, and self-expression. The project offers year-round programming, providing teenage girls from communities of color with access to professional cameras, quality instruction, and workshops that encourage them to ‚Äč‚Äčexplore their identity,¬† build leadership and advocacy skills, and strengthen their social and emotional well-being. Programs run for 14 weeks, with a time commitment of a minimum of 4 hours per week.¬†


How Impressive Are Summer Programs in College Admissions?


Summer programs, as part of your extracurricular activities, show colleges your dedication to and pursuit of your art passions. In addition, you will likely come away with a solid portfolio that you can build upon to submit as part of your college application. Different colleges weigh extracurriculars like summer art programs differently. CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator can tell you how colleges value your extracurricular activities. It uses factors like grades and test scores (and extracurriculars) to estimate your odds of acceptance at hundreds of schools across the country. It even provides insight into how to improve your profile!


Other Ways to Spend Your Summer


Though summer break provides you with the most time to explore your passions, it is not the only time, and participating in summer programs is not the only way to pursue your interest in art. You can spend the summer touching up your foundational art skills on your own, like drawing and painting. Entering art competitions is a great way to have your college application stand out, as well as show your merit as a young artist. 


While we listed some paying programs in this list that operate like internships, there are many official summer art internship programs. Internships demonstrate initiative, and combine your passion for art with clear career direction.Take a look at our list of art summer internships for high school students. Looking for more summer programs? Take a look at this list of virtual opportunities for high school students.

Short Bio
Kimberly graduated from Smith College with a degree in English Literature. This year, she has been based in Beijing, China, where she works in the education field and rescues dogs in her free time. She will be starting her masters at Columbia University in the fall.