The Outreach Pre-College Courses

Art courses for high school students - NYC

2D Design

2D Design explores design and composition on a flat surface. Students are introduced to a variety of design concepts including geometric page divisions, figure-ground relationships, scale, symmetry/asymmetry, line-form relationships, patterns, texture, and letterforms (basic typography). Drawing, collage, digital photography, photocopying, and computer programs (such as Adobe InDesign and Illustrator) are used to execute the class assignments.

3D Design

3D Design introduces students to the sculptural form in a collaborative atmosphere. Using materials like cardboard, wire and plaster students create linear, planar, and volumetric objects. Several construction methods are introduced to allow students to investigate formal concepts such as mass, structure, texture, and balance in their in-class assignments.

Contemporary Art Issues

Contemporary Art Issues introduces students to current visual art practices and concepts. The class primarily consists of artist presentations, visits to galleries, and digital presentations. In this course students will be asked to discuss and write about issues in art. They will also be introduced to questions that explore exhibition criteria, the market, site specificity, the hierarchy of materials and methods, art’s role in contemporary society, and who determines art’s value. Ultimately, the students are asked to define for themselves what is meaningful artwork.

Writing Creative Writing workshops are taught with the visual thinker in mind. Students approach writing from a creative point of view learning to express themselves through poetry, word games, objects, existing text, and journals. A poetry reading concludes the course.

Introduction to Drawing is designed to explore drawing as the fundamental language for all art forms through observation of still life, interiors, exteriors and the figure. Using a variety of mark-making and mark-subtracting tools and materials, students learn to bridge drawing’s basic elements to form compositional statements. Through discussion and critique, students discover vocabulary to talk about drawing and express their ideas visually. Class work is complemented by sketchbook exercises.


Photography introduces the concept of working with light as an artistic medium. The class emphasizes the versatility of photography as a creative tool with hands-on techniques including: pinhole cameras, compositions created without the use of negatives (photograms), and the negative enlargement. Students are encouraged to explore a multitude of black and white photographic techniques.

Letterpress & New Media Special Projects

Letterpress & New Media Special Projects explores the process of collaboration between students and the crossing exchange of media. By definition, mixed media is experimental, and opens us to a broader scope of visual communication. In the spirit of Cooper Union, this class encourages a multidisciplinary approach to making art work. 

Ava Smile's Special Projects: Collage and Web Design

During the winter class we will explore different techniques of collage through a series of different book formats, and will translate them into interactive web drawings. We will use existing archives, such as the NYPL picture collection, as well as use rubbings or found materials to create our own image and texture archive to draw upon throughout the class.  Both with our hands and with the computer, we will use collaging, folding, zooming in, cutting and cropping to manipulate these images, and will think about what these actions mean as ‘gestures’ as well as practical tools. Students will learn a basic web design foundation, so that these manipulation tools will be translated into web design vocabulary. This will allow us to think about how we navigate images on the web, through zooming, scrolling or indexing, and how this affects the way a drawing or a narrative is understood. The simple book art book designs will also become different ways of navigating images and will correlate to the finalized online creations, for example, students will explore the format of a scroll book both in physical form and digitally.

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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.