Arts Academy Boarding High School: Comparative Arts Major

The Comparative Arts major attracts young artists with multiple skills and interests: creative writing, music, visual art, acting and dance.

The Comparative Arts curriculum balances theory classes (The Digital Artist, Psychology of the Artist, Communication Theory, Aesthetics and Seminars) with Body-Mind training, integrating Dance, Yoga, Pilates and the Healing Arts (Reiki, Ayurveda, BMC, Massage).

An important part of our curriculum is devoted to the creation of original works in collaboration with other departments on campus. Students focus on the many aspects of the creative process, by being encouraged to participate as dramaturgs, performers, event managers and branders of their art. By generating ideas and taking ownership from idea to performance, our students engage in art-making from a collective, individual and social point of view.

During their junior, senior, and postgraduate year of study, the students devise their own work, which is presented to the community at the end of the academic year.

Field trips and international travel are considered an important component of the Interlochen education. Seemingly geographically isolated, Interlochen has a vibrant international student community on campus, which keeps us global in our thinking and art-making.

Cultural and exchange trips to many destinations, including Singapore, France, Italy, England, Ireland, China, Australia, and Belize create unforgettable experiences.


In 2016-17, students explored the natural artistry of the North Country National Scenic Trail here in northern Michigan with a project called “Pilgrimage.” Students used artistic workshops and scientific experiments to examine the trail in three capacities: Identity, to understand the artist and the muse as an artistic medium; Essence, studying the broader context of the trail in a liberal arts and scientific context; and Outreach, wherein students played the role of global visionaries. By integrating both academic and artistic viewpoints, the project provoked conversations through scientific, humanistic and artistic lenses.

Interlochen has received national recognition for “Heart and Art” in the 2014-15 school year, and last year’s “Detroit to Rio” programs. Each Comparative Arts project creates an overarching theme blending arts, academics and outside organizations, such as Munson Medical Center in “Heart and Art.” This year, Comparative Arts will work with the National Park Service as students explore the North Country National Scenic Trail which meanders through several counties here in northern Michigan.

Dr. Mary Ellen Newport, Director of Math and Science at Interlochen Arts Academy, will lead the expeditions and develop projects on the ecology of sound for upcoming Earth Day celebrations in April. The pilgrimages will also inspire a collaborative project lead by dancer/choreographer Jennifer Lott and indie composer Son Lux, combining elements of film, music, dance and design. The entire “Pilgrimage” project will culminate in a performance during Interlochen’s Composers Forum in April of 2017.

Detroit to Rio

In 2015-16, students took part in a collaborative initiative called Detroit to Rio: Sound Conversations about People, Places and the Planet. The project connected Detroit to Rio from historical, economic, ecological and artistic perspectives and included student-led collaborations with Interlochen Public Radio, Wayne State University, various Detroit artists, and much more. (To learn more about our other collaborative projects, please visit our Facebook page.)

Following in the footsteps of the Heart & Art project, Detroit to Rio continued the practice of a new educational method known as the Collaborative Continuum, in which curriculum is designed around a central theme. In the spirit of collaboration, the project involves not only students in the comparative arts program, but also students from other majors, Interlochen Public Radio, and guest artists from Detroit and Rio, such as Detroit-based producer and musician Luis Resto and composer Paul Rudy; musician Joe Murfin, who was a Samba guest artist; visual artists Susan Byrnes and Theresa Smith, who did an iron pour; and Michigan writer and poet Holly Wren Spaulding.

A series of tours and performances gave an experiential dimension to the project and expand the Detroit to Rio curriculum throughout the year, including an ecology exploration and camping trip to Detroit, a visit to Luis Resto’s studio and a performance at his Loft, and a choreography project with Wayne State University; The D: Mural of Time and Sound, a multidisciplinary performance at Interlochen’s Phoenix Theatre.

Students from the Detroit to Rio program also shared their knowledge by teaching units at local elementary schools in the Traverse City area and Wayne State University.

In addition to academic and artistic training, comparative arts students will received media training from professionals at Interlochen Public Radio. IPR will help the students learn how to record and present what they learn throughout the course of the project.


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 seminar class is a workshop based course of study. Topics covered include the Psychology of the Artist, addressing personality, developmental stages, learning, sensation & perception and coping with stress. Communication Theory, from Socrates to Foucault, then focuses on the role of the artist as public speaker, its' ethical responsibility and persuasive tools. Every semester, the Comparative Arts students also have the opportunity to work with guest artists in depth and over a longer period of time. The goal is to expand knowledge in a given area and utilize it for your own artistic process in a direct or indirect way. This time is also used for self directed study and research and for organizing collaborations with other departments.

Digital Artist is designed to introduce a variety of media applications that are useful for today's art-making and portfolio development. Technology has had a huge impact on any traditional artform, be it theatre, dance, music or visual art. Artists are using digital media to enrich and amplify their message as they are creating and subsequently, utilize social media platforms to market and archive their work for future reference, job search and personal marketing. Exploring the opportunities of media as an artistic tool as well as utilizing platforms to showcase the interdisciplinary work of the Comparative Arts students, is at the core of this course.

The students will gain a basic knowledge of applications such as Garage Band, extracting, editing and manipulating sound; iTunes, developing podcasts or live streams; iMovie, editing and creating short promotional videos; Word Press, writing and choosing content for a personal website. The class will also manage content for the media platforms of the Comparative Arts program, proposing content for our Interlochen website, Facebook, and tumblr presence.

Mind-Body Grooves
This course is designed to question, understand and strengthen the Mind-Body connection providing tools for a balanced lifestyle that will help you enjoy the most of your time at Interlochen and create positive habits that will last a lifetime.

Philosophically, artists and scientists have had an ongoing struggle with the Mind-Body entities, obliterating either one or the other at different times in history. Students in this course will learn about the topic of mind versus body across the centuries, exercise regularly and devote time thinking about their nutrition. Bi-weekly sessions in Pilates, Gyrokinesis, Yoga and dance based practices will instill a ritual of practice in the students' life and increase their level of fitness. These active pursuits are complemented by sessions in the healing arts, such as Meditation, Reiki, Massage, Body Mind Centering and Ayurveda. These tools not only improve our quality of life, but are important elements in the artistic process, as a framework for story-telling and character development.


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 in the Academy admissions community

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.

Our admission counselors 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, 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.

Detroit to Rio: First Detroit trip photos

Image Gallery

Comparative Arts


Nicola Conraths Lange

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