Putting The Arts First – Paier College painting a new picture of education
by Greg Mursko
When one thinks of a career as an artist, it may seem like a far-off goal. It conjures images of humble and infrequent paychecks without a clear path forward. Naturally, many are apprehensive when considering a career as a creative, either for themselves or for their kids. However, creative jobs are more pervasive than it seems, and today’s world offers even more avenues and paths for the creative to travel. So, what’s next? It can be hard to find the right fit no matter what the major is, and art students often fall within a small minority at many universities. The art programs can become stifled—without significant relevance to the modern world as a working creative. Paier College is the antithesis of this and has withstood the test of time while also adding a curriculum for cutting-edge pursuits.
“We are not ballooned with dozens and dozens of majors,” says Conor Geary, Chief of Staff at Paier College. “What we do, we excel at. We offer a hands-on, in-class learning environment with professional experts. We focus on preparing and graduating people who are ready to become professionals in their own right; not just honing talent, but making that talent marketable.”
Established as the Paier School of Applied Art in 1946 by Founders Edward and Adele Paier, with a historic connection to the Monuments Men, the institute focused on making art an employable pursuit, adding photography after their move to New Haven in 1954, then moving to Hamden in 1960 to accommodate increasing enrollment. After decades of fine education in Hamden, Paier College has opened a new branch near the shores of Long Island Sound in Bridgeport.
After acquiring the Arnold Bernhard Center, Cooper Hall Dorm, and 2 other buildings from the University of Bridgeport and repurposing thousands of square feet for usable and updated offices, classrooms, labs, studios, and student use spaces, Paier College enjoys over 4 times the enrollment in 2021 than just 3 years ago. They’ve also added more contemporary creative pursuits to encourage important careers in emerging fields, such as industrial design, marketing, digital marketing communication, and global media and communication studies. They are about to launch their new coding and software design certificates.
In addition to providing a competitive edge, the focus on artistic pursuit does another key service for the students at Paier.
“Obviously, cliques are going to form at universities and art students are no exception,” says Paier College President Joe Bierbaum. “When you have dozens or even hundreds of majors and electives, art students can form a tight minority and their voices can get lost in the huge crowd of students. Here, it’s been great to see that many of the kids who may have been timider in High School are surrounded by other creatives and have really shined and therefore honed their skills even further. That, in conjunction with the awesome location and being right next to Seaside Park and this beautiful area really lets the student find social comfort and reach a higher potential in their lives.”
The faculty is composed of great artists in their own right, Bierbaum explains. “When students look up their professor’s portfolio they’re like ‘wow, that’s my teacher?’”
Paier College seeks to increase enrollment and reputation in the coming years, as well as expanding their curriculum to accommodate an advancing market. RPAC Art Center’s academy and Paier are currently working on an agreement that would enable RPAC students to be awarded college credits for porfolio work in other subjects at Paier College. For more information, go to www.paier.edu•