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Entering the Art World

Entering the Art World

At this spring’s Fine Arts Portfolio Review, students learn about opportunities in today’s rapidly changing art world.

a student discusses work with two reviewers at RISD's Fine Arts Portfolio Review

Anastasia Onegina MFA 17 TX (right) gets feedback from a trio of professionals at RISD Careers’ Fine Arts Portfolio Review. | photo by Jason Arnone

As senior Heather McLeod 16 IL slips into her seat across from the director of Drift Gallery, the conversation starts simply. “How can I best help you in these 20 minutes?” asks gallery director and guest reviewer Ali Goodwin 99 GD, one of dozens of reviewers at this year’s Fine Arts Portfolio Review. McLeod responds by unveiling a pair of meticulously painted portraits that reveal the vulnerability of their subjects through well-observed nuances – the napes of their necks, the curves of their ears. “Ah, yes, no one has the same ear,” says the curator, showing appreciation for a sensibility refined when the Illustration major spent a semester abroad at RISD’s European Honors Program in Rome.

Ali Goodwin 99 GD takes a closer look at the Fine Arts Portfolio Review. | photo by Jason Arnone

Goodwin praises the perspective and storytelling powers on display in McLeod’s diverse digital portfolio and points to a watercolor street scene she says would be right at home in Condé Nast Traveler. “You have so many gifts in your portfolio,” she tells the senior before offering practical advice about tailoring the work to meet the needs of specific galleries and buyers. “Do your homework, know your audience and show them the best work that they will want to show.”

Goodwin is among the enthusiastic creative professionals who met with individual juniors, seniors and graduate students at the Rhode Island Convention Center on Monday, April 25 to review their work and offer insights about how to thrive in the ever-evolving world of fine art. Organized by RISD Careers, the event attracts representatives from Artspace, Cade Tompkin Projects, Freight + Volume, Mana Contemporary, The Steel Yard and other arts organizations able to provide and/or connect fine arts students to options throughout the northeast. It's a great way for students to learn about “the ecology of the art world they’ll enter after graduation,” says Careers Director Kevin Jankowski 88 IL.

"The Fine Arts Portfolio Review introduces students to the ecology of the art world they'll enter after graduation."
RISD Careers Director Kevin Jankowski 88 IL

David Borgonjon BRDD 14 PT of the Brooklyn-based experimental technology studio Eyebeam sees the event as an opportunity for students to begin thinking beyond the conceptual and formal qualities of their work and discover how to build the art career they want – despite a saturated marketplace. As he looks at a collection of waterproof knit fabrics by Anastasia Onegina MFA 17 TX, he speaks about researchers who work with bacterial cellulose and other biofabrication materials that might provide further guidance for the artist’s sustainability-minded approach to making textiles.

Across the hall, John Lee 16 PT presents a collection of paintings that run a gamut of thematic interests, from critiques of religious iconography to pop experiments with a Warhol feel. “These are beautifully painted – you have a real hand,” says Natalia Nakazawa 04 PT, assistant director of the Studio Program at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (EFA) in NYC. Their conversation shifts from theoretical and interpretive questions about Lee’s work to practical ones about how to turn a portfolio of images into an immersive and engaging gallery exhibition. “How can you make the experience [of viewing your art] religious?” she asks the artist, urging him to not simply “give people your art.” Instead, she urges, “make them slow down and work for it.”

"RISD is one of the barometers for what's happening in the art world. We love meeting students who are using new materials and new techniques to make things we haven't seen before."
Beth Kantrowitz, co-director of Drive-By Projects gallery in Watertown, MA

Beth Kantrowitz and Kathleen O’Hara, co-directors of Drive-By Projects in Watertown, MA, have been coming to the Career Center’s Fine Arts Portfolio Review every year since its inception in 2012. “RISD is one of the barometers for what’s happening in the art world,” Kantrowitz says. “We love meeting students who are using new materials and new techniques to make things we haven't seen before.” The curator also likes hearing where these emerging artists land after completing their studies, noting that this year a handful of students told her they plan to connect with fellow alumni in Philadelphia. “I think that really speaks well of the community that RISD creates – that these artists want to continue to work together after graduation.”

—Robert Albanese

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