Art professor offers tips on brushing up portfolios

As the semester nears its end, students usually scramble to study for their final exams and work on their final projects. While this is a motif throughout campus, a few departments take end of the semester assessments to a new level, through a process known as portfolio reviews.

For art students in particular, this assessment, which occurs twice in their four years at MSUM, is a stressful and somewhat scary time for them. Taken very seriously throughout the art department, faculty encourages students to put forth great effort throughout the process.

Art and design professor Anna Arnar has been involved in the portfolio review process in the past and understands the pressure that it puts on students and thinks it is a great experience for them.

“We try to set it up so it’s like a professional context,” she said. “It even comes down to the level of dress.”

When preparing to dress for the review, Arnar thinks students should ask themselves if they would go to an interview that way.

While this may seem like overkill to some students, the professional nature of the process gives students an insight into the pressures of the real world.

“The other thing that we look at is professional execution,” she said. “They have to mat their work and sometimes frame it.”

While some students may find this extra work frivolous, Arnar assures students that it will help them out in the long run.

The faculty who review the students during this process also take note of not only the students’ work, but the way students are able to speak about it.

“We actually evaluate them on their oral proficiency,” Arnar said. “One thing artists need to know is how to talk about their work. That’s hugely important.”

For students who succeed in their freshman year as an art student, which Arnar calls the “foundation and drawing year,” portfolio review shouldn’t terrifying, as they should have a good grasp on what they did throughout the year as well as the vocabulary necessary to  speak about their work.

“They have to be able to assess their strengths and weaknesses and not just think about individual projects, but about the scope of their whole work,” Arnar said.

Faculty in the art department know that, even if they have a good grasp on their work, students may be anxious about the portfolio review process. For students feeling this anxiety, Arnar had some advice.

“Be organized,” she said.

Arnar also encourages students to talk to fellow students who have gone through the process before as the best advice can come from them.

“We also offer workshops on how to prepare,” she said.

Arnar also explains that her fellow faculty members, along with herself, talk about portfolio reviews rigorously in the classroom.

Arnar’s final piece of advice for students is what she feels is the quite important for students to be successful.

“Practice talking about your projects,” she said. “Be prepared and think it through.”

While portfolio reviews are a stressful time in art students’ college careers, the art department believes that the reviews are a great assessment tool and are a great experience for students, as the insight the reviews give students into the professional world are an experience students can take with them into their lives after college.

The faculty of the art department are pleased with how much work a majority of the students put into this review process.

“We are proud of the students,” Arnar said.


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