CMS Certification: building a future for our organization and for mosaics in America

March 21, 2017

Out of the many distinctions that make CMS a truly one-of-a-kind organization, there is one in particular that draws a line separating us from other art centers and educators offering instruction in mosaic arts.

The main mission of the Chicago Mosaic School has always been to provide serious training in mosaic arts overseen by academically trained artists who are acknowledged experts in their medium. In 2013, director Karen Ami, faculty member Sue Giannotti, and then-Education Director Matteo Randi decided to take this mission to its natural conclusion and develop a program for certification in mosaic arts. Our certification program, like our school, is the only one of its kind in North America. Seeing that there was a significant gap in both collegiate fine art curricula and the mosaic arts world, the program was designed with the goal of providing a syllabus of studio classes and workshops of increasing rigor, on par with a bachelor’s degree program.

The full program takes 2-3 years to complete and focuses on many of the key elements of any formal art education: demonstrating material knowledge, improving technique and aesthetic sensibility, and developing an artistic voice. We seek to admit students who are invested in developing their own serious artistic practice, as well as building a career that contributes to creative communities. The intent of the program is not only to help create a higher standard of formal expectations in mosaic arts, but also to train a new generation of artists to teach and steward an art form that has existed for thousands of years into the future.

Our certification students follow a curriculum of 13 core classes and two elective workshops. Once they have taken a given class, the student then returns home to create a personal project that continues the lesson, applying the techniques and materials they’ve recently learned. After completing their personal project for each class, it is subject to strict academic critique from the CMS faculty. Before being awarded their certificate, the students have to complete a portfolio review, take a written and practical exam, and complete a research paper on a historical topic in mosaics.

Students make reproductions of ancient mosaics in a Ravenna Technique class, which teaches traditional Byzantine mosaic methods that have been practiced for over a thousand years.

Students participate in a critique session with two side by side artworks.

As a recent, niche program in our organization, we’ve seen wonderful growth in a few short years. Over 20 students have been enrolled in certification, and with our recent move and expansion, we are hoping that we will be a beacon for artists who are looking for serious opportunities to study mosaics.

Looking to the future, CMS has high hopes for the certification program to play a significant role in our long-term growth. We hope one day to partner with accredited universities and colleges and fill in the gaps in their fine art curricula using our long-established reputation for artistic expertise, high caliber methods and materials, and now our status as an academically rigorous, certificate-granting organization. In the past, CMS has partnered with local institutions such as Columbia College, Northeastern Illinois University, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Harold Washington College to create and teach course offerings. With our certification program, we are asserting the need for formal training in the medium, not as a one-off class or historical curiosity, but as a vibrant, relevant, contemporary medium worthy of intense academic study and elevation in the world of fine art.

We encourage any individuals interested in pursuing a certification in mosaic art to check out our program page!

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