Summer at the Circus offers Grady students insight into portfolio school

While some Grady College students spend their summers studying abroad or working on internships, others spend their time at the circus…Summer at the Circus, that is.

This circus is no three-ring show, however. Summer at the Circus is an intense eight-week program offering college students an inside experience of Creative Circus, a prestigious portfolio school in Atlanta.

This unique program is offered through the Department of Advertising and Public Relations and just completed its fourth summer of educating students in a variety of disciplines from the University of Georgia and other colleges including the University of Texas, Emory University and Dartmouth College, to name a few. A total of 22 students participated in this experiential learning program, and Grady College students can earn up to six hours of credit for taking the program.

“Everyone was applying to summer internships, but I wanted to figure out everything about advertising, including what I was interested in and thought I was good at,” said Jennifer Funchess, an advertising major from the University of Georgia, about her decision to attend Summer at the Circus. “Internships are important, but you should take the summer to explore what you are good at…what your strengths and weaknesses are…and go from there.”

Throughout the eight weeks, students spend dedicated time learning about creative teams, art direction, Adobe Creative Suite, pitching creative ideas, typography and photography. The students typically spend five or six hours a day in class learning from the Creative Circus instructors. The remaining time is spent working on projects that build on one other ranging from designing a self-portrait in type to the capstone project of creating a board game.

Grady College instructors, including Kim Landrum, Sabrena Deal and Kirsten Strausbaugh-Hutchinson, attend, as well, and provide supplemental instruction outside of class.

“These students spend late nights definitely learning how to manage their time,” said Landrum, a graphics lecturer. “They are working while they are eating. They stay at the studio as much as possible.”

Summer at the Circus students also have the advantage of working alongside full-time Creative Circus students and enjoy frequent guest lecturers including creative professionals from Uber, Google and major advertising agencies who visit the studios.

The biggest advantage of Summer at the Circus is that it is fueling the passion for students who think they may be interested in advertising as a career, while giving them a well-rounded view of the industry.

“Because Grady and Circus have developed this program together, they have developed it based on the needs of both sides,” said Landrum. “For us, there is a huge benefit to have a seamless integration between what they are getting at Grady…the broad spectrum…and this specialized program. They really complement each other.”

Michael White discusses creative concepts during a class presentation (photo: Kim Landrum)

Creative Circus has invested in the program because it provides valuable insight into learning from the students and tapping into some talent early in the process.

“Summer at the Circus is a launching pad and a way we can discover more students,” said Mara Maddox (ABJ ’96), marketing and public relations manager at Creative Circus. “We want to be a service to the community and we want to help them find their path. We want to find students that have this talent, it may be a latent talent, and help them discover it and hone in on it. Our instructors are professionals and they have worked in the industry and they know what is required out there to make it. We are kind of helping to groom them in that way by telling them ‘here’s what you have to do.’”

Despite the daunting pace, the students who participate have a new perspective.

“I went into the summer knowing I was interested in copywriting and didn’t have much experience with the other areas of creative,” said Sophie Lichtman, a senior advertising major from Savannah, Georgia. “This program has taught me how important it is to be able to speak with the other disciplines and weave those ideas together in order to create a polished product.”

Harper Biewen, a junior advertising major from Durham, North Carolina, agrees.

“Summer at the Circus has definitely exceeded my expectations,” she said. “It’s been challenging, but has taught me so much about myself and what I am capable of. It has pushed me beyond the limits of what I thought I could do.”


Date: August 17, 2016
Author:  Sarah Freeman,