We continue our city-to-city quest to find noteworthy art educators helping aspiring artists find careers in art by highlighting 15 noteworthy professors working at universities in the biggest city in the entire world — New York City. New York City is not only an art mecca, it is also an education mecca, which made our jobs easy because there were so many excellent professors to choose from. Alas, we can only pick 15 although we readily admit that number falls woefully short of the number of professors who work in the city and deserve recognition. From prestigious traditional universities like New York University and Columbia University to art-specific schools like Parsons and School of Visual Arts, the Big Apple is packed with talented and experienced art educations. Take a look!
Kathryn A. Smith, Art History Professor, New York University
It’s one thing to know the subject material you teach, it is another thing entirely to have spent your entire educational career studying art and its history as NYU professor Kathryn A. Smith has done. After an undergraduate degree in Art History from Yale, Smith earned her Master’s degree and PhD in Fine Arts from NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts. She specializes in early Christian and medieval art, especially medieval illuminated manuscripts, and is an accomplished author on the subject. She has served on the Board of Directors of the International Center of Medieval Art, is Series Editor of Studies in the Visual Cultures of the Middle Ages, and has won all sorts of honors for her work in the field. In the classroom, students say Smith’s classes can be difficult, but they also say she is an engaging lecturer who helps even students who have no interest in art to enjoy the subject.
Paul Corio, Drawing and Design Professor, Parsons The New School of Design
Although he is only a part-timer at one of the country’s best design schools, Corio deserves recognition for his combination of talent as a painter and talent as a teacher. A Rhode Island School of Design (Bachelor’s) and Hunter College (Master’s) graduate, Corio is a talented abstract painter and designer whose work has been featured in group exhibitions on both coasts as well as Paris. He also receives almost unanimously high marks from his students for his ability as a teacher. Students praise him for not only his knowledge of the subject, but also his genuine desire to help his students improve as artists, and his sharp and sarcastic wit. Students also say he can be demanding, but they admit that it is because he is trying to bring out the best in his students. He can clearly paint and by all accounts, he can teach too, and that is good enough for us.
Samuel Freedman, Journalism Professor, Columbia University
The journalism school at Columbia is generally regarded as one of the finest in the country and its faculty is littered with accomplished and award-winning journalists as well as some of the best journalism teachers in the country. Samuel Freedman is no exception. A columnist and former reporter for The New York Times, an author of seven well-received books, and accomplished speaker, Freedman is well-known in journalism circles. He is considered one of the finest religion and ethics journalists in the country and is routinely called upon by major networks to speak on religious issues and in particular American Jewish issues. As a teacher, Freedman is no slouch either. He was named the nation’s outstanding journalism educator in 1997 by the Society of Professional Journalists and students say that while he can be demanding and blunt, he is also thought-provoking and particularly helpful when it comes to actually improving students’ work; 69 students and counting have received book contracts under his tutelage.
John Ruggieri, Drawing Professor, School of Visual Arts
At this point, John Ruggieri is a bonafide institution at the School of Visual Arts. Not only has Ruggieri been teaching drawing at the venerable art school for more than 25 years, but he also has a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from SVA as well. A talented illustrator, Ruggieri is an accomplished professional artist. But at this point, it’s pretty clear that the impact he has made on countless students is why he more than deserves a little bit of the spotlight. You would be hard-pressed to find a former or current student who doesn’t love Ruggieri as a professor. Whether it’s his unique and intriguing drawing style, his ability to connect individually with his students, or his positive encouragement and attitude, students rave about taking Ruggieri’s classes and highly recommend them to even students who aren’t all that interested in drawing.
Mike Essl, Graphic Design Professor, Cooper Union
Cooper Union is well-known for one primary reason and that reason is that it boasts what is widely considered the finest engineering school outside of MIT. But the school is not a one-trick pony, and its School of Art is growing more popular in part because of professors like Essl. He may not look like your parents’ art professor (and he would probably take that as a compliment) but his design chops are unassailable. A Cooper Union graduate, Essl cofounded an award-winning design firm in the mid-1990s and has worked with big-name clients such as Sony, Microsoft, Nickelodeon, and National Geographic. He also has a Master’s degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, has worked for DC Comics, and has taught at Parsons School of Design and School of Visual Arts before landing as an associate professor at Cooper Union. As an educator, some students are turned off by his bluntness and “tell it like it is” style of criticism. But they also recognize that he knows his graphic design, seems to genuinely want his students to improve, and is more than willing to help students network in the industry.
Kadambari Baxi, Architecture Professor, Barnard College
Columbia’s sister school, Barnard College, is considered not just one of the finest institutions for women in the country but also one of the finest academic institutions in the entire country. As one might expect from a school located in Manhattan, Barnard has a robust department of architecture and a plethora of experienced and talented architecture professors to bolster the department. Baxi is well-known in New York City architecture circle and has been a member of the Barnard faculty for almost a decade. She teaches architectural design studios and senior seminars and is well-liked by her students for not only her obviously intimate knowledge of the subject material but also for her willingness and patience when it comes to helping her students learn. As a professional, it doesn’t take long to realize Baxi’s credentials stand out. Her work has been presented all across the globe, she has worked with some of the country’s pre-eminent nonprofit organizations focusing on new media design, she serves on multiple boards for architectural organizations, and she has co-authored two books. We don’t need to go on, do we?
Wade Schuman, Fine Arts Professor, New York Academy of Art
Schuman, whose career spans over 25 years as a third generation teacher isn’t just your average professor; he is the faculty chair of the painting department at one of the better-known art academies in the country while also being the Chair of Faculty. An accomplished painter in his own right, Schuman’s work has been exhibited in galleries across the country and his talent as a painter apparently leaked into his teaching profession too, because his students don’t have many negative things to say about him. He doesn’t just earn high-marks for his knowledge of the subject, he also gets points for his encouragement of students to dig deeper into painting styles, for his humility when it comes to helping students, and for his honest critiques that help his students drastically improve their painting ability. It’s rare to see a faculty chair that is not only still very much in touch with the teaching aspect of the job, but is actually good at it too. You’ll also see him show with the Forum Gallery of New York.
Jenny Lee, Sculpture Professor, Pratt Institute
After graduating from Cooper Union with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, Lee embarked on a welding career that has seen her earn plenty of acclaim for her skill and talent. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums such as the Neuberger Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, she helped develop exhaust systems for Jaguar, and she helped in the construction of exhibits for the American Museum of Natural History. She might even be a better teacher than she is an artist, at least if her students are to be believed. Students universally enjoy her teaching because she really works to help the student learn, tries hard to connect with them on an individual level, and is incredibly accessible if students need help or mentoring. She is so well-liked that even Pratt students not interested in sculpture purposefully sign up for her class anyway.
Daniel Savoy, Art and Architecture Professor, Manhattan College
Located in the Bronx, Manhattan College is often a forgotten institution when people are asked to name prestigious New York City colleges and universities. But to exclude Manhattan from the list is a mistake in part because of their increasingly popular Visual and Performing Arts program. Armed with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Florida State and a PhD from NYU, Daniel Savoy started teaching at Manhattan in 2010 after stints at Vassar College and The City University of New York. A specialist in modern Italian architecture and urbanism, Savoy is an accomplished author and lecturer who also so happens to be an excellent teacher as well. His lectures can be a bit dull apparently, but he makes up for it by inviting discussion amongst his students and really making an effort to help them learn and understand the subject material. Students say that his classes are easy, but they also say that is because his understanding of the subject is so thorough, that they can’t help but learn from hearing him speak.
Julia Gorton, Design Professor, Parsons The New School of Design
It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see that Parsons has more than one professor on this list. After all, it was one of the most famous design schools across the country and has produced more than its fair share of incredibly talented designers and artists. Julia Gorton is not only one of those talented alumni, she has also been teaching in the Communication Design department at Parsons for more than 20 years. A freelancer designer and illustrator since the 1980s, Gorton specializes in illustration and design for children’s books and has an impressive list of titles she has worked on. As professor, Gorton not only teaches graphic design but also encourages her students to use their work to benefit surrounding communities. Students love taking her classes because they say she genuinely cares about the improvement of her students and she is more than willing to stay and help any student who needs it. Her projects are difficult, but fun and engaging, and students say her high expectations help bring the best out in them.
Philip Lasser, Composition Professor, The Juilliard School
A New York City native, Lasser is uh…well-educated. Not only does he have a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from Harvard and Columbia respectively, he also earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Juilliard, where he studied composition. He joined the faculty at Juilliard that same year and has become a very well-liked professor in the last 20 years. Lasser is a talented composer who was named 2012 -2013 Composer of the Year by the Classical Recording Foundation and has won a slew of other awards for his composition work as well. His music has been performed by countless symphonies across the country and he is also an accomplished author as well. We could go on and on about his professional exploits, but he is also a talented teacher as well. The classes he teaches contain occasionally tedious subject material, but students appreciate his knowledge of the subject and the subtle influence he is able to have on the students’ work. They also find his viewpoints and opinions particularly engaging.
Amy Aronson, Journalism Professor, Fordham University
Columbia doesn’t have a monopoly on prestigious journalism schools in New York City and the primary reason is because Fordham’s journalism school is plenty reputable in its own right. It always helps to have professors like Amy Aronson, who combines a long line of professional experience with a passion for teaching and helping her students succeed. She teaches a number of classes at Fordham but she primarily studies media history with a specific focus on gender in magazines and literature. A graduate of Princeton who also boasts a PhD from Columbia, Aronson is a prolific author and editor whose work has appeared in national publications as well as niche women’s magazines as well. As a professor, students call her one of the nicest teachers they have ever had as well as an engaging and interesting lecturer. She also receives points for her willingness to help her students and her encouragement of debate and interaction in her classroom.
Michael Cokkinos, Advertising Professor, Fashion Institute of Technology
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the Fashion Institute of Technology is only for aspiring designers. There is a wide variety of programs available to students who attend, including advertising, which is where Michael Cokkinos has made his mark. He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Film and Media from Hunter College and in his professional career he has been all over the industry working as a broadcast engineer, an announcer, a television producer, a technician, and a video editor. In addition to his teaching duties at FIT, Cokkinos also serves as an advisor for WFIT, the school’s official radio and broadcast station, and for the Culinary Arts Club. His breadth of experience helps in the classroom as well because students praise his knowledge of television production and computer applications while also lauding him for his easygoing nature and fun subject material. In fact, students at FIT don’t just like taking Cokkinos’ production classes, they love taking them, and that is the sign of a great educator.
Suzanne Dell’Orto, Fine Arts Professor, Baruch College
Suzanne Dell’Orto is one of the most accomplished and diverse artists on this list. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts and she got her Master’s Degree in Studio Art from New York University’s Venice Program. She has been exhibiting her work since the 1990s and her work has been prominently displayed throughout New York City and also across the country. Calling her a painter would be selling her short however. She is also a designer who has worked in multiple graphic design firms. Most importantly to us however, she is a teacher. Students appreciate not only her willingness to help and her engaging lectures, but they also enjoy her sense of humor and say she really tries to devote individual time to each of her students.
William Tyler Smith, Film Professor, New York Film Academy
A combination of professional talent and teaching talent is an important characteristic to make this list and even with that emphasis, William Tyler Smith stands out from the rest. The award-winning filmmaker has done it all. He has worked as a writer, director, producer, and photographer who has worked on documentaries and feature films. His short films are critically acclaimed, as was Kiss Me Again, a film that Smith directed that screened at countless festivals and has been theatrically released in the United States as well. He also won numerous accolades for his work as a graduate film student at UCLA, which is where he got his teaching start before moving to NYFA. His students praise his ability to find interesting and unique ways to teach the material and also appreciate his no-nonsense approach to teaching. His focus on the material and passion for his craft are what help make him one of the more well-liked film professors at a school full of talented and well-liked film professors.
Check out the noteworthy professors from other cities we have covered: