Saturday, November 20, 2010

Portfolio Days

Graduate Portfolio Days is an event where several schools from all over the country come together and hold a large (free) portfolio review for prospective graduate art students. It's held 3 times a year in different major cities. This past November it was held in Chicago, and hosted by The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

I got downtown about 15 minutes prior to start time to find a line of artists going around the block. Hundreds of people were standing, waiting, with their huge portfolios. Once inside, there were booths and tables for each school, but only 2 or 3 spokespeople at each one. This created long lines and some schools didn't even get through their entire line before it closed (4 hours later). I sat down with Parsons, University of the Arts, SAIC, MICA and Montclair University. I waited in a really long line for Cal Arts and ended up missing it because we ran out of time. I had some great feedback on my work and great tips on how to better present my pieces when applying.

I have a friend living in Chicago currently, and getting his MFA in painting from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. SAIC is ranked among the top 3 grad schools for fine arts/painting. I was interested in possibly applying to the school in the future, but curious to learn more about the program. My friend let me crash at his place and then was kind enough to show me around the school (and the amazing view of the city from the critique room). Luckily, there was an "MFA Open Studios" also being held that weekend. This is where you get to walk through all the students' studios, viewing their work. Afterwards, I got to hang out with the entire painting department as we had dinner and drinks downtown. I asked their opinions about the school and for advice in applying.

I'm very glad I visited, because after seeing the work, and meeting the students, I decided not to apply. This school has one of the best reputations, but it was not a good fit for me for a few reasons:

1. It is one of the most expensive programs out there. And I'm frugal.

2. Chicago is really, REALLY cold. Location is a huge factor for me. I like 4 seasons, but that is just brutal.

3. The work is HIGHLY conceptual. These kids are smart, that's for sure, but I'd be the odd man out if I'm the only one who's actually drawing.

4. The program is self directed. There are weekly critiques, but I need guidance. I'm just not that disciplined.

I don't discourage anyone from applying or attending SAIC. You could probably have any job you wanted after graduating. I just encourage visiting schools before including it in your 'desirable' list.

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