Reviewing Fine Arts Portfolios

Students with design professionals at annual portfolio review

At this year’s Fine Arts Portfolio Review on Monday, April 29, more than 40 studio artists and representatives from museums, galleries and arts nonprofits will meet with current juniors, seniors and grad students to offer one-on-one critiques and share insights into a wide range of creative careers.

Here four alumni reviewers invited to campus by RISD Careers talk about what they hope to offer students and what those students can contribute to the contemporary art world.

Four reviewers talk about how to help students

Why are you attending the Fine Arts Portfolio Review as a reviewer?
Elizabeth Greenberg 90 PH, vice president of Academic Affairs at Maine Media Workshops and College: The first time I participated in this event was around 2004 and since then I’ve enjoyed coming back as often as possible—it’s always a highlight of my spring. I love staying connected and getting a sense of what’s happening at RISD now.

Brooch by Tzu Ju Chen MFA 06 JM
brooch by Tzu-Ju Chen MFA 06 JM

Tzu-Ju Chen MFA 06 JM, director of Hera Gallery: I wish something like this existed when I was getting ready to graduate. I had no idea how to create a path for my career and art practice, so meeting professionals from various backgrounds would have helped.... Now it’s especially rewarding to give back and share my experiences.

The contemporary jewelry field is a community of makers, educators, collectors and audiences. We are most effective when we challenge people’s perception of jewelry collectively. The Fine Arts Portfolio Review is a perfect opportunity to connect and expand this community.

Sarah Russin 84 PR, executive director of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions [LACE]: There is a massive concentration of artists living in Los Angeles—with so many amazing RISD alums [among them]. I know a lot of graduating students will want to set up here, too, so I think it’s good for them to hear about small, non-collecting institutions like LACE—a place where they can connect with other contemporary artists, curators and writers. Spaces like this were completely off my radar when I was a student.

Islay Taylor MFA 07 JM, associate director of The Steel Yard: As both an alum and neighbor, I’m excited to talk about opportunities here in Providence, which can be a great landing spot for emerging artists. I’m also selfishly excited to see what students are creating in the final months of the [academic] year and discuss the concepts they’re working with in their current art practices.

“I’m very interested to see the quality of work and the ideas—political, social, personal—that students are exploring right now.”

LACE Executive Director Sarah Russin 84 PR

What do you want to see from the students you meet?
Greenberg: I love being surprised. In recent years I have been so excited by how transdisciplinary approaches and innovation are woven into personal contexts. Last year [in particular], I was thrilled to see how many students across disciplines were incorporating writing and different media forms into their work. I still absolutely love photography too!

Taylor: There are a number of opportunities at The Steel Yard for RISD students and graduates: as paid teachers in classes, designers/fabricators of public artwork or through artist residency programs. Whatever their interests, we look for self-motivated, enthusiastic artists with quality craftsmanship who are interested in the community aspects of our organization. We want to see the high-quality, provocative artwork that RISD students are known for and to talk about it in terms of how community and creativity intersect.

Russin: Because I haven’t been back to RISD for a long time, I’m very interested to see the quality of the work and the ideas—political, social, personal—that students are exploring right now. This is a very dark political time, but in LA a lot of artists are pushing back and asserting their identities. I want to find out if that’s part of the experience for RISD students in fine arts [disciplines] as well.

Reviewers talking to students

What do you think sets RISD students apart from those you meet at other schools?
Russin: Whether it’s in design or fine art, it’s really not enough anymore just to be a good artist or have strong technical skills. You have to make art about something. That requires intelligence and curiosity about the world and a desire to be connected to it. Ultimately it’s about content—and artists who come out of RISD have a lot to say.

Greenberg: What stands out about RISD students is their critical awareness and innovative thinking. The work generally has depth and is relevant within the contemporary art scene. I think their cross-disciplinary approaches and ability to finesse the craft of multiple disciplines is also unique. The RISD alumni I’ve hired over the years always impress me with their maturity and clear-eyed ambition.

“The RISD alumni I’ve hired over the years always impress me with their maturity and clear-eyed ambition.”

Photographer/educator Elizabeth Greenberg 90 PH

What can you tell students about creative practice after RISD?
Taylor: Life as a studio artist after RISD is interesting and diverse! When leaving academia, it's important to curate your life around the aspects of college experience that were most important to you—to find workspace, people to have a critical dialogue with and an employer that aligns with your artistic values.

Greenberg: Keep working. That’s the most important thing. Keep learning. Evolve. Stay connected to your peers and be present. Participate. It won’t get easier—but don’t give up. You have to be self-driven. Nurture the passion and commitment that propelled you through.

interviews by Robert Albanese / photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

The Fine Arts Portfolio Review runs from noon–5 pm at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

April 25, 2019

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