Montserrat’s New Concentrations Featured in Salem News

July 27, 2023

Montserrat College of Art’s new concentrations, Games, Toys, and Play and Writing and Visual Narratives, were covered in a story in the Salem News! You can read Staff Writer Paul Leighton’s full piece below or at the Salem News’ website.

BEVERLY — The newest academic program at Montserrat College of Art also sounds like the funnest.

The college announced this week that it is launching “Games, Toys, and Play” as one of two new concentrations this fall. The program will teach students the skills to design and build games and toys as well as the psychological and social aspects of play, according to the school.

Brian Pellinen, Montserrat’s interim president, said the new program reflects a growing interest by students in all kinds of games, from video games to board and tabletop games, and the prospect of getting into the multi-billion dollar toy and game industry.

“That interest in games has been there for a long time, but the pandemic probably accelerated it somewhat,” Pellinen said. “There’s new interest in board games, card games, collectibles. More and more it’s typical for students to have come here playing Dungeons and Dragons and creating costumes. It’s just an interest in our culture right now.”

The Games, Toys, and Play concentration (which is similar to a major) will include the study of video games, alternate and virtual reality, card games, tabletop games, role-playing games, plushies, educational toys, collectibles, and toys for special populations, according to the college.

Pellinen said the program will teach the skills to design games and actually make them. He said Montserrat has a variety of digital tools, from 3D printers to laser cutters to CNC routers, that can be used to fabricate prototypes.

Pellinen said the skills that students learn to fabricate games are the same ones needed to fill the many manufacturing jobs that are open on the North Shore, including medical device manufacturing.

The college noted that the new concentration taps into the long history of game design on the North Shore, including Parker Brothers, the board game company in Salem that created Monopoly.

Montserrat College is also adding a new concentration called “Writing & Visual Narratives.” That will focus on storytelling and imagery in comic books, graphic novels, illustrated children’s books, screenwriting and storyboarding, areas that are a “marriage of visual art and writing,” the college said.

“What we’re seeing across our culture is a renewed interest in comic books, graphic novels,” Pellinen said. “I would bet that most people under 20 have read more graphic novels than regular novels.”

At Montserrat, concentrations serve as areas of focused study, like a traditional college major, the school said. Montserrat students select their concentration at the end of their sophomore year after two years of wider-ranging study.

In addition to the two new concentrations, Montserrat announced that it is also expanding its existing animation program, one of its most popular programs. Students in animation learn to animate films, video games and motion graphics. Graduates of the program have worked at Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street and Hasbro, according to the college.

Montserrat College has about 375 students and 65 faculty members. The school is located in the Hardie Building in downtown Beverly and has several residences and art studios in the downtown.

While many small private colleges are struggling to fill seats, Pellinen said specialty schools such as Montserrat are faring better.

“We’re holding our own,” he said. “A lot of small schools wish the recruitment was little easier. Our faculty spends a lot of time crafting new programs. I think these two new programs feel a little bit more contemporary.”

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.