By Brandon T. Bisceglia

BRIDGEPORT - Professor John Favret, who became program coordinator for Housatonic Community College's art department last autumn, is aiming high for the future of his students. He wants nothing less than to "establish our school as the best community college in the area for the arts and computer graphics."

He's hardly starting from scratch. HCC has long boasted the largest art collection of any two-year college in the country, a fact largely attributable to the late Burt Chernow, who once had Favret's job. The college currently offers over 20 different courses in a range of art-related subjects, including Ceramic Handbuilding, Advanced Digital Photography, and Digital Video Editing.

Favret is currently working to expand this already robust curriculum in two ways: by offering more advanced courses, and by increasing the basic courses being taught. This, he feels, will better serve the variety of students who come to HCC to learn about art.

"We get a wide mix of people," he says. "Some are at the introductory level, but others are more advanced. Some students don't plan to go to a four-year school, so they want to get everything they can with their associates. At the same time, we try to make sure that everything is transferable."

Favret notes that HCC has automatic transfer agreements with several four-year colleges and university that allow qualified graduates of HCC art programs to transfer seamlessly into those schools. He says that he is looking "on the horizon" to get agreements completed with Central, Western and Southern Connecticut State Universities.

Even if a student chooses not to move on to another college, he or she can get sophisticated training through some of the art classes. In Advanced Digital Photography, for instance, students produce a personal portfolio based on their own inspiration using a suite of editing software, including Adobe Photoshop, Aperture, and Lightroom. They also learn about photographic aesthetics and the history of photography.

A few new classes that are on Favret's radar screen for the near future include Studio Photography, Sculpture II, and Portrait Painting. He's also excited about the Digital Video Editing class, which will have its first run this Spring. Students will learn such things as editing and trimming, audio mixing, timeline, QuickTime movies, output to tape, and using filters and effects. "I believe the only other community college in the state that has the course is Manchester," he points out. "We don't know where it will take us yet - maybe more opportunities in the field of broadcasting."

Favret is also hoping to secure a few extracurricular perks for those in the arts and graphic design programs. For example, he'd like to sponsor artists' and lecturers, especially "to bring in artists who could give demonstrations of techniques not taught at the school." Additionally, his department has begun using professional models that have modeled at the Silvermine Art Guild and come highly recommended. "It will help to bring out the quality we want," he explains.

In the immediate term, he's revamping the art program to provide students with improved workspace and bringing in top part-time instructors, some of whom come from Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University

Favret is pleased with how well the art program is being received. Enrollment at community colleges since the beginning of the recession has exploded, and HCC is no exception. According to Favret, the art courses for Spring, 2010 have been filling up faster than expected.

"Around this time," he says, "we usually begin looking to cut classes [that show a lack of interest]. We've added five new classes instead. We could add more."

Brandon T. Bisceglia is a journalism student and intern at Housatonic Community College.