Arts Academy Boarding High School: Comparative Arts Major

The comparative arts major is designed for high school students who want to pursue in-depth, self-directed study across arts and academics. This program is a college preparatory experience built into an arts-oriented curriculum that allows students to explore cross-disciplinary interests.

The comparative arts major is ideal for students who have a proven interest in creating original work, a strong academic record, and a desire to investigate and synthesize a wide range of arts and academic subjects. Students may start the program as a ninth grader, or transfer in as a sophomore, junior, senior, or post-graduate.

Through hands-on projects, academic coursework, and exploration in multiple arts, comparative arts students cultivate method of research, communication skills, critical thinking and an artistic historical awareness and understanding of the human experience. They develop as leaders who are self-directed learners and problem-solvers that confidently navigate the creative process from an original idea to implementation, evaluation, and refinement.


Aesthetics in Arts and Humanities is a core class for comparative arts majors. This course looks at the relationship of art and culture with the historical construction of human societies. The curriculum changes each year and focuses on the influence of art through in-depth analysis and research from all arts areas. Topics include: renaissance, romanticism, modernism, and art for social change.

The Creative Process is a required course for comparative arts majors only. This course examines and explores the act of artistic creation across multiple arts disciplines. Students are actively engaged in creating individual and group projects while drawing on their artistic and academic instruction in other disciplines.

Annual Projects give students an outlet to channel their own creative energies while receiving support and guidance from the Interlochen faculty. This project allow students to cultivate their own skills and interests while synthesizing multiple arts and academic disciplines. All annual projects contain a written component along with a presentation, which could include a performance or demonstration given to students and faculty. Previous project examples include: writing and directing an original play; developing a series of interrelated poems and photographs; developing an original film based on consumerism; composing original pieces based on the history of the saxophone; and creating an installation based on historical views of women in society.

Additional Projects provide comparative arts students with multiple creative outlets throughout the year. Students develop production skills while working with the award-winning Interlochen Public Radio staff to create an hour-long program that is broadcast on the radio. Students also develop communication and collaborative skills working on a Salon Night presentation as well as an Outreach and Engagement piece based on a theme.

Mind Body Grooves

The Digital Artist


Like students in all majors at Interlochen Arts Academy, students in the comparative arts program take a challenging and comprehensive college-preparatory curriculum that includes courses in math, science, English, history and foreign language.

Performance and Presentation Opportunities

Comparative arts students have opportunities to participate in performing groups, readings, presentations, gallery exhibitions, motion picture productions and publications. Some activities have audition requirements or prerequisites that must be met before a student can become involved. For more detailed information on performance opportunities for comparative arts majors, please contact an enrollment counselor in the Office of Admission and Financial Aid.

Arts Courses

Comparative artists will take multiple arts courses each semester that will create a strong foundation for their artistic projects. In addition students have the opportunity to take an independent study with a specific arts instructor of their choosing. Students choose from a variety of classes which may include:

Creative Writing
Elements of Poetry
Elements of Fiction
Introduction to Screenwriting
Ekphrastic Writing
Literary Publication
Writer in Residence Elective

General Dance

Motion Picture Arts
Independent Cinema
Great Directors

Music Foundations
Class Piano
Class Guitar
Chamber Music*
Jazz History
Jazz Combo*
Other Ensembles*

Acting Foundations
Elements of Production
Fundamentals of Design
Dance for Musical Theatre
Song for Musical Theatre
Song and Dance Lab
Acting Technique*

Visual Arts
Visual Literacy
Color Theory
20th Century Art History
Renaissance Art History
Curatorial Practices
The Structure of Drawing
Painting Techniques
Introduction to Photography
Fiber Properties and Structure
Metalsmithing Techniques
Sculptural Forms

*Prerequisites or audition required

How to Apply

  1. Prepare the materials listed here: admission requirements
  2. Complete the online application
  3. Submit your materials online:

Though not required, a campus visit is recommended. You can tour the campus, visit classes, and possibly take in a performance. You can meet and talk with students who are living the Academy experience. You may also arrange for an audition or portfolio review.

Our enrollment officers are here to help you in any way they can. If you wish to talk with someone about Academy programs, the application process, a campus visit, audition or portfolio presentations, or other topics, they will be happy to work with you. Simply call 800.681.5912 or 231.276.7472 or email


Graduates of the comparative arts program are currently studying at

  • Bard College
  • Hampshire College
  • Beloit College
  • California Institute of the Arts
  • The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
  • Emerson College
  • Yale University.

For more than five decades, Interlochen Arts Academy has integrated artistic study with college-preparatory academics. Although the comparative arts program is a relatively new major, there are many Academy alumni who exemplify the goals and philosophy of this program; individuals who used their deep experiences in the arts to develop highly successful careers in a variety of fields.

Aaron Dworkin (class of '88, music major) is an arts administrator, founder of the Sphinx Competition and a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient.

Steven Goodman (class of '78, visual arts major) is a leading wildlife biologist and conservationist and a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient.

Fredrik Hiebert (class of '78, visual arts major) is an archaeologist and explorer with National Geographic.

Chris Klimecky (class of '91, music major) is a video game developer, a career that requires him to lead a large team of artists, programmers, composers, writers and actors.

Claudia Polley (class of '67, music major) is a museum consultant and founder of the National Association for African-American Heritage Preservation.

Kenneth N. Jones Jr. (class of '98, visual arts major) is the founder and president of Ken Jones Jr. Fine Art and at one time was Ralph Lauren's personal art dealer.


Isaac Reilly - National Merit Novartis Scholarship

Maya Samuels - First prize, National Young Scientists Competition at the Weitzman Institute for the Sciences

In 2012, one comparative arts major participated in the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS) presented by the Nobel Foundation.

Image Gallery

  • Interlochen Center for the Arts' photo
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Nicola Conraths-Lange

Director of Comparative Arts, Interlochen Arts Academy
Instructor of Dance, Interlochen Arts Academy and Arts Camp

Ph.D. candidate, Performing Arts, Brunel University, London, UK; M.A., Communication and Theatre Arts, Eastern Michigan University; B.A., Communication and Psychology, Eastern Michigan University; Diploma in Performing Arts, London Studio Center

Daniel Asad

Instructor of History and Comparative Arts, Interlochen Arts Academy

M.A, History, American Public University; B.S., Social Science Education, University of South Florida

Dr. Peter Kuras

Writer-not-in-Residence, Comparative Arts, Interlochen Arts Academy

Ph.D., German Literature, Princeton; B.A, Comparative Literature, University of Chicago

Joe Murfin

Composer-not-in-Residence, Comparative Arts, Interlochen Arts Academy