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How to Present Your Art in Portfolios and Exhibitions

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As an art student, you present your works at various times in your emerging art career.

How you prepare your work for presentation depends on the time, the place, and to whom you will be showing it. Knowing how to present your art correctly in a portfolio or gallery will determine how well it’s received by the audience or public.

The following things should be found in your portfolio:

  • clear, professional presentation
  • strong editing and sequencing
  • focused body of work
  • potential for creative exploration
  • original, creative voice

In addition to your visual work, you will be asked to supply a statement of purpose.

This statement should describe your background in the arts, and put the pieces you are showing into a context.

The statement should clearly state:

  • what the work is about
  • how it is informed or influenced
  • how it is made, including process and materials
  • what your professional aspirations are as an artist

By contrast, once you are enrolled in your actual classes, you are presenting works that are still in progress.

In these cases, there is less reason to design a presentation. Your audience is a supportive faculty member who knows your past work and is encouraging experimentation. Risk-taking is something that is usually encouraged at this point.

The dialogue in a critique should address these topics:

  • Is the work finished? If so, why do you feel that it is?
  • The intent of the piece
  • Its strengths or weaknesses
  • Future directions the work will take
  • Techniques employed in the work

Finally, as students prepare for a capstone exhibit, they will be showing actual, finished works only.

You want to make a professional statement with the selection and arrangement of your works.

This may include:

  • matting works
  • framing works
  • installing and curating the exhibition
  • supplying information such as titles, dates and media through labels
  • lighting set for optimum display

Written statements here should be more informed about your vision or intent with the work. You will want to use the artist’s statement to educate your viewer about who you are, what you envision your work to be about, and what your desired response is to your art.

While it is easy to say that the work must “speak for itself”, you will also be required to understand how to speak about the work and engage your audience with your individual studio practices.

During each of these stages, students should take the time to consider their audience and be aware of how their work should be selected and presented.

Anytime you are exhibiting your art, you are opening yourself up to critique.  You should always seek responses to what, and how, you present yourself in your work. As a professional artist, you quickly understand that the only way to continue to grow artistically is to welcome this dialogue.

Contributed by Andre Van De Putte, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Enjoyed this article? Check out our article on why you should study art in France.

Why Study Art History?

Learn why the study of art history is important and where it can lead you.

In a financial climate where the arts and humanities are lower priority subjects, the value of art history (and visual culture) should not be forgotten. It should certainly not be overlooked by students wanting a creative yet academic degree. Art history offers a wide-ranging field of study and provides graduates with a range of skills applicable in many employment sectors. By what is art history, and why should you study it?

What does it involve?

Studying art history, like all history, aids our understanding of the present and the future through the analysis of the past. While art history focuses on art and its production, this incorporates many other fields, including social history, aesthetics, economics, politics and anthropology.

The discipline’s methodologies also draw heavily on philosophy and critical theory. It combines well with a range of other humanities subjects to create stimulating joint honours programmes.

Students of art history and visual culture are exposed to a wide range of disciplines and approaches, and apply these to the full range of countries and historical periods, thus leading to cultural, political and historical awareness. Students carry out independent research, learn to read texts and images critically, write and speak on these topics, and draw their own conclusions.

Where can it lead?

Art historians feed the public’s interest in art; many students want to go on to work in public museums and galleries. Their studies, therefore, contribute to the preservation of national heritage, plus the works from all over the world that we are lucky enough to house in the UK, and also to the educational activities carried about by museums and galleries. The heritage tourism industry is also a major part of the country’s economy, attracting millions of visitors every year and contributing to related businesses throughout the UK.

As well as careers within the arts, art history graduates develop widely applicable skills: working independently, writing essays, delivering presentations, undertaking research and analysing texts and images. In short, the discipline breeds culturally aware independent thinkers, avid researchers and passionate communicators whose knowledge stretches far beyond the art which first drew them to the subject.

Written by Rosalind McKever
Chair of Student Group
Association of Art Historians

Enjoyed this article? Read our reasons why you should study art in France.

Why Study Art in France?

Celebrating years of historical and cultural significances, as well as boasting endless galleries and museums, France is a place which is hardly lacking in artistic inspiration.

It’s no wonder that the art capital is a hotspot for the most prestigious art schools, including Paris College of Art. But why study art in France? We’ve put together a guide to help you understand more about the application process and what France promises for you.

Top Art Universities in Paris 

  1. Paris College of Art 
  2. École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (French National School of Fine Arts) 
  3. École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs 
  4. National School Fine Arts De Lyon 
  5. École Nationale Supérieure d’arts de Paris-Cergy  

Typical entry requirements 

Although universities require your qualifications, art schools are more interested in the work you showcase. There are three things which you will definitely need to add in your application, including: 

A Personal Statement 

This is usually 500 words at a minimum and should highlight your qualifications, your skills, and how you can bring these to your applied institute.  

A CV  

This may also be requested and is simply a listed way of all your achieved grades, where you studied, and previous work experience.   

Portfolio 

In your application, the portfolio is arguably the most important part. Here, you will usually be requested to compile perhaps 10-20 of your best work together in a portfolio, which you may either need to submit online or take with you into an interview.  

So what does France promise? 

Home of the greatest artists and arthouses  

From Monet to Picasso, and Rodin to Van Gogh, France boasts a fine array of some of the most famous artists in the world. Not only that, but France also holds the world’s most famous art galleries and museums, especially in Paris. With the Louvre promising a wide range of art spanning across centuries and civilisations, to the Centre Pompidou showcasing an unrivalled collection of contemporary works, or the congregation of local artists and their works in Montmartre, France is nothing short of inspiration for a budding artist.  

Job opportunities 

Studying art in France also leads to lots of potential careers. From curation to tour guides, museums and galleries are already a starting point for job prospects. Other career opportunities may include venturing into art direction, graphic designing, photography, prop design and art restoration and conservation.

Editor’s Note: France (especially Paris) is the home and inspiration for many famous artists. Why study art in France? Is it the culture, the architecture, or merely something in the water that creates such an artistic genius?

Why Study the Arts in Europe?

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Dr Sarah Pinto, historian and Course Director for Bachelor of Arts at Deakin University, says degrees in the arts are favoured among prospective students, in part due to the flexibility and diversity that the degree offers.

But why study the arts in Europe as a study destination?

“Transferable skills are required across a range of different career professions – business, government, community sector, not-for-profits. There’s no limit to their value.” Dr Pinto says. The demand for transferable skills is forecast to increase from 53% in 2000 to 63% by 2030, and therefore a demand for graduates who studied the arts is on the rise.

Editors note: Due to Brexit, the information in this article may now be untrue for the United Kingdom. We’ll update this once we know more about the effects of Brexit on studying abroad.

Historical and multidisciplinary institutions

Many institutions across Europe, especially those in the arts, have a long-standing history in a variety of artistic disciplines. This includes fine art, design, music, architecture, dance, theatre, and more. Studying the arts in Europe would allow you to study in the birthplace of a lot of the great movements in these artistic disciplines. You can study classic opera in Italy where Lablanche sang his heart out, fine art in France where Monet was inspired, or Theatre in England where the bard was born. Gone are the days when students would be required to study at just one institution.

Multiple cultural experiences 

Programs through Creative Europe and the European Union (including ERASMUS+ and European Universities) allow for exchanges and enhanced experiences for students across cultures and between institutions. These programmes make it very easy to live across Europe and experience different areas of artistic interest and cultures. Imagine the depth and development of artistic understanding. You have the opportunity to study in many countries with the EU’s vision “in which learning, studying and doing research would not be hampered by borders”.

This European Education Area project, to be developed by 2025, aims to enable a new generation of Europeans to cooperate across languages, borders and disciplines.

Career opportunities

Europe is a hub for culture and the creative industries. So if you’re already thinking ahead to graduation, there are lots of career possibilities to consider. This is a strategic focus area for ELIA and it was the main focus of the NXT Project.

Employability for art students is on the rise, especially in Europe. Some of the world’s very best theatres, art galleries, museums, publishing houses and research projects are found in Europe. Studying at a European University would give you greater access to these career fields. That’s why ELIA is committed to making creative hubs. We make institutions more sustainable and facilitate their international exchange and collaboration in order to connect young artists with cultural and creative sectors and businesses.

Interested in applying to an art school in Europe? Check out ELIA’s member list and apply to an institution. Our network of multidisciplinary institutions has a collective history, industry connections, and a growing number of career possibilities.

Editor’s note: It was a pleasure working with ELIA. They worked tirelessly with me to ensure that this article was informative, insightful, and stayed true to their mission. Arts degrees are often put down for being “easy” or “unimportant”. But a world without the arts is a world without culture, without heritage and identity, and without history. A world without art degrees would certainly be rather dull.

Enjoyed this article? Why not check out our reasons to study art in France.

Why Study Art History in Italy?

To say “art history” in Italian, you say “Storia dell’arte”

Italy has one of the richest histories in terms of art and culture in the entire world, which is why it is often seen as the holy land for Art History students.
Hannah Robertson is a First-Class Art History graduate from the University  of Sussex who visited Rome in Italy as a part of her course. We asked her why Italy was such an important destination for her, “I would say that it was really important to be submerged into the art and your surroundings to get a real idea of the importance and impact of the art – like seeing the Sistine chapel or Trevi fountain, you can only get to grips with its beauty when you are there looking at it, and even to non-art historians you can feel its impact and beauty! Rome itself was just a fascinating city, every corner you turned you would be met with a fascinating church, and it really took you back in time!”

Italy is the country with the most UNESCO world heritage sites in the world: the whole country is an open-air museum! This makes the boot-shaped peninsula a living classroom for international students.

There is an overwhelming amount of study abroad programmes, as it is such a popular location, and each location will give you a deep insight into a specific part of Italian Art History.

For instance, if you find yourself in Rome, you could head to Vatican City to catch a glimpse of Raphael’s famous fresco, School of Athens. Or maybe you’re curious to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in her glory at the Uffizi in Florence. Of course, you don’t want to miss seeing some of Michelangelo’s grandiose works like The Last Supper in Milan or the massive works in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

For art aficionados, Italy is a paradise with an invaluable heritage of works and places: in Italy you will experience the greatest achievements in art, architecture and sculpture from the Classical World, to the Renaissance, the Baroque and contemporary art.

If you directly enrol through a University, it can cost you on average around $3,500 USD, which is a very reasonable price.

Italy also tends to offer a great deal of summer courses, which are more intense but for a shorter length of time.

The low price and the flexibility of the courses means that studying Art History in Italy is easily accessible for everyone.

Italy can be fairly cheap to live in

International Student Makes Environmental Statement Through Fashion

Radka Blazickova, originally from Prague, is a 22-year-old Textiles for Fashion graduate from the University of Northampton.

For her debut catwalk collection for Graduate Fashion Week 2019, Radka used an uncommon material to create her pieces.

Blazickova used 3000 single-use plastic bottles to create her collection, which includes coats, a jacket, a gilet, a waistcoat and bags.

She used the bottle tops, labels, and even shredded up the actual bottles in order to create her waste-inspired looks.

Radka – right- with one of her designs

We interviewed Radka about her time as an International Student, as well as her collection.

Why did you choose to study in the UK?

Because there are so many choices of study courses. I was always interested in fashion but there is not a lot of opportunities in the Czech Republic to study fashion. After I finished my A-levels I was deciding on what I can study and when I saw a chance to study fashion UK I was decided. Even I knew (almost) nothing, I was that passionate and I said to myself that I can do it. So I went to the UK, started the university and it was hard, because firstly I didn’t understand much and secondly I’ve never used sewing machines etc, but I spent all my evening in there to be able to catch up. After my first year, I was more or less on the same level as my classmates and I was used to working harder than others, so I continued doing that in the next years and I think that’s the reason of my success.

Why did you choose to make plastic single-use bottles the focus of your fashion line?

I was enjoyed working with leather in the past years, I enjoyed handmaking anything so I knew that in my final collection I’ll definitely use these skills (as my collection is 100% handmade). I love nature and I enjoy water sports, so you can imagine how much rubbish and plastic objects I’ve been seeing around. When it came to the decision on the topic I wanted to reuse at least some of this trash. I’ve been trying different techniques and different objects to create my own textiles, and I ended up using plastic bottles as they work perfectly and it is effective as well. I’ve been collecting bottles on the streets, collaborating with my friends, university members, and restaurants in Northampton to collect bottles. I’ve used 3000 bottles in total which shocked not just me but everyone around and I was happy when my friends told me they were surprised about the number of bottles.

 What do you think of high street fashion?

I think it’s great to have something like that because it is affecting so many people because everyone is looking at the trends. So imagine if it was all sustainable: everyone would be looking to sustainable fashion as it would be in trend. The bigger issue is brands like Primark, New Look etc because people are using clothing from these brands sometimes just once and also the materials what they are using are making so much pollution to the environment during production.

How can we make our fashion more sustainable?

Firstly we don’t need as many clothes as we think. There are so many ways to reuse fabrics or repair old clothes. When buying we should look at the materials and it’s good to have some knowledge about fabric making in a pollution way. Charity shops are great as well or just simply think about the product, ‘do I rather get something cheap which would stand for a small amount of time or do I get staple good quality product which would stand forever?’ Also while washing of these cheap products we pollute our environment by emitting harmful substances into the water.

What advice do you have for other international students chasing their dreams?

Definitely, you can do much more than you think if you want! Don’t be afraid to go beyond the borders of your mind. If you have a passion for anything in the world go for it. Even if you’d have to do a job you don’t like just to be able to get money for something you have been dreaming about for a long time. It makes you feel confident, and you’ll be proud of yourself.