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Exploring the arts as a non-major

You don't have to be an arts major to take courses in the College of Fine Arts.

As we return to campus for Fall 2021, there’s a mixture of excitement and anticipation in the air. For many of us, living in and adjusting to life during a pandemic has taken a toll on our wellbeing. From stress and grief to sleep changes, we know our students are dealing with many new and different circumstances.

That’s why, in addition to the wealth of wellness and counseling services on campus, we are inviting all University of Utah students to consider registering for courses in the arts (Art & Art History, Dance, Film & Media Arts, Music and Theatre) to supplement their learning and find new ways to explore resilience.

There are making classes, movement classes, lecture courses, and music ensembles that welcome all U students (partial but awesome list below).

So, what are the benefits?

Research on the social, cognitive and emotional benefits of arts experiences is painting an increasingly vivid portrait of the ways in which creative endeavors can change us for the better. Of course, that’s why expressive art therapies exist. And even outside of the context of the arts as therapy, researchers are seeing many indirect benefits of engaging with the arts.

Some of that research is being done right here at the University of Utah by faculty and staff affiliated with the Arts-in-Health Lab, which is a hub of interdisciplinary research, teaching, clinical care, and community engagement at the intersection of the arts and health. Its members study how the arts support and produce well-being, and put that knowledge to work in hospitals, clinics, community centers, schools, workplaces, and senior care facilities.

One example is Theatre professor Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell whose forthcoming book called “Arts for Health: Theatre” reviews theatre-related evidence and points to strong associations between engagement in theatre with several positive health outcomes, including:

  • Positive self-regard
  • Improved social relationships
  • Positive impact on mental health and well-being (e.g., reductions in anxiety)
  • Improved health literacy

NPR’s Malaka Gharib interviewed several researchers for her piece, “Feeling Artsy? Here’s How Making Arts Helps Your Brain” and noted that the benefits include:

  • Assists us in imagining more hopeful futures
  • Activates our brains’ reward center
  • Lowers our stress
  • Helps us focus

And in an exhaustive scoping review called “What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?,” Daisy Fancourt and Saorise Finn stated that the arts can:

    • affect the social determinants of health (e.g. developing social cohesion and reducing social inequalities and inequities);
    • encourage health-promoting behaviours (e.g. through promoting healthy living or encouraging engagement with health care);
    • help to prevent ill health (including enhancing well-being and reducing the impact of trauma or the risk of • cognitive decline); and
    • support caregiving (including enhancing our understanding of health and improving clinical skills).

We could go on, but we’ll suffice to say: the benefits are broad and important, and we hope you’ll take us up on this opportunity. You don’t have to have any experience. Just register, bring your curiosity, and join us.

Here is a short list of some of the classes and opportunities any U student can enjoy:

Art and Art History

ART 1020: Non-Major Drawing
Fulfills Fine Arts Exploration (FF) requirement
Department of Art and Art History students explore new ideas and approaches to contemporary developments in the visual arts, through a wide range of courses taught by renowned faculty and instructors.  Non-Major Drawing classes address practical applications of drawing media, with a focus on perceptual drawing from observation in a specialized classroom setting.  Instruction fosters a collaborative learning environment and includes, lectures and slide talks, live demonstrations, group critiques and individual feedback.

ART 2060: Non-major Digital Photography
Fulfills Fine Arts Exploration (FF) requirement
Anyone can take pictures – but are you a photographer? This course can teach you to see light, space and time in a new way. Learn from the experts with a hands-on approach to help you take your image-making to a new level.


BALLE 1140: Ballet I for Non-Majors
Fulfills Fine Arts Exploration (FF) requirement
Ballet I for Non-Majors is a Fine Arts Exploration course where students can expect to learn about the historical and current context of Ballet – including basic vocabulary, technique, and unique styles. Students will be expected to watch, write, and participate in dance through a personal movement practice implementation. Students find the environment respectful and claim this course “enables [them] to learn about other perspectives and clarify [their] own.”-from an anonymous Spring 2021 mid-semester student survey.

DANC 1075: Dance-Creative Process
Fulfills Fine Arts Exploration (FF) requirement
Dance-Creative Process explores the creative process through the medium of movement and dance. This Fine Arts Exploration course is rooted in experiential learning that requires students to engage in the dance-making process by creating and sharing movement studies throughout the course. Choreographic tools, improvisation techniques, and experiments in other artistic disciplines provide students opportunities for artistic discovery, self-expression, and an appreciation for the art of dance.


FILM 1110: Introduction to Film: An introduction to the study of motion pictures
Fulfills Humanities Exploration (HF) requirement
Students examine through a range of critical lenses and are introduced to key concepts in the study of moving images, as well as a wide and engaging selection of narrative and non-narrative films from different countries and different periods in cinema’s history.

FILM 1600: Animation: Then, Now, Next: Introduction to the continuing evolution of animation
Fulfills Fine Arts Exploration (FF) requirement
The course investigates not only the creative and technological innovations that expand cinematic storytelling (e.g., Mickey Mouse to VFX, Simpsons, Anime Games to VR), but also how the arts are an integral part of animation (i.e. sound/music, art/design, cinematography/editing, acting/theatrical lighting)


MUSC 2100: History of Rock and Roll
Fulfills Fine Arts Exploration (FF) requirement Learn about the trailblazers, perpetuators, and musicians who left a lasting legacy in the History of Rock n’ Roll. The origin of rock n’ roll lies far beneath the mainstream radar screen. The main focus will be the artists who have made the greatest creative impact in their respective periods. Enroll in one of School of Music’s non-major courses.

You don’t have to be a music major to participate in School of Music ensembles! Symphonic Band, Voci Altissime choir, and the Early Music Ensemble don’t require auditions. Audition for any of these ensembles: A Cappella Choir, Campus Symphony, Chamber Choir, Chamber Music, Classical Guitar Ensemble, Flute Ensemble, Harp Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Guitar Ensembles, Jazz Repertory Ensemble, Jazz Small Groups, Marching Band, New Music Ensemble, Opera, Percussion Ensemble, Utah Philharmonia, Wind Ensemble.


THEA 3792: Queer Theatre
Fulfills Diversity (DV) requirement
Queer Theatre asks students to contemplate the relationship between American drama written by LGBTQ+ playwrights and the ever-evolving U.S. culture these plays reflect.

THEA 1050: Intro to the Visual Arts of Theatre 
Fulfills Fine Arts Exploration (FF) requirement
Students will discover and explore the visual world of theatre, including the design process. Students will investigate elements and principles of design, and learn to apply them in the analysis of costumes, lighting, properties, scenery, and sound.