Juniors, seniors and grad students meet with representatives from 126 companies from across the globe at annual Design Portfolio Review.
Networking in the Arts
“As a junior, I’m still struggling to figure out how I want to participate in the art world after RISD,” says painter Felix Benton 23 PT. “Talking to curators and gallerists at this year’s Fine Arts Portfolio Review was a great opportunity to practice communicating with people about my work in a low-consequence setting.”
“For emerging fine artists, it’s not only about gallery exhibitions, but also residencies, grants, alternative spaces... and more.”
Benton is one of the more than 180 juniors, seniors and grad students who took part in the virtual RISD Careers event in late April. Participating organizations from across the country and beyond are eager to meet with RISD students and provide feedback on their developing practices.
“For emerging fine artists, it’s not only about gallery exhibitions, but also residencies, grants, alternative spaces, arts organizations, independent curators and more,” RISD Careers Director Kevin Jankowski 88 IL explains. “These reviewers are part of an ecosystem that provides opportunities, support and networks that help artists sustain their creative practices.”
“I was excited to offer my perspective as a reviewer and to see so much critical thinking and storytelling in the work of the students I met.”
Alum Hannah Antalek 13 PT, exhibitions manager at NYC gallery Uprise Art, has experienced the Fine Arts Portfolio Review from both sides of the proverbial table. “When I was a student, I found it really valuable to speak with professionals in the art world about the many different ways creative people can make a living,” she recalls. “I was excited to offer my perspective as a reviewer and to see so much critical thinking and storytelling in the work of the students I met.”
Junior Soeun Bae 23 SC is also very much interested in how young artists find work after earning their BFAs. She describes the experience as “more of a studio critique than a job interview” and a great opportunity to learn about available resources and how to navigate life after graduation. She takes advantage of as many RISD Careers programs as she can and earned a $3,000 undergraduate internship grant for the coming summer, which will allow her to work at digital media arts center Harvestworks in NYC.
Grad student Jinha Kang MFA 23 DM is hoping to spend some time at home this summer in South Korea but appreciates the advice she got about long-term career planning. “I was concerned about applying for jobs in the future because my skill set is so varied,” she explains. “One reviewer suggested that I become a professor in the future and another advised me to apply for grants and residencies after I graduate.”
Seniors Helena Miller 22 TX and Syamini Breathwaite 22 GL both approached the event with more specific goals in mind. “I’m looking to work for a fashion brand or at a museum and was excited to meet with a rep from MAD [the Museum of Arts and Design] in NYC,” says Miller. “I’m really interested in textiles conservation and curatorial work, and I’m currently doing a fellowship with Laurie Brewer in the RISD Museum as part of my Theory and History of Art and Design concentration.”
Breathwaite is also hoping to work in New York next year and was eager to connect with a rep from UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, where she has rented studio space in the past. “There’s a huge glass-blowing scene in New York,” she explains, “and I love a fast-paced environment, so it just makes sense for me. The best advice I got overall is to take my time as an emerging artist. Making work that you’re passionate about doesn’t have to be such a stressful process.”
“Making work that you’re passionate about doesn’t have to be such a stressful process.”
Artists interested in a more rural environment can apply for two-month residencies at Sculpture Space in Utica, NY. Executive Director Tom Montan participated in the Fine Arts Portfolio Review for the first time this year and describes himself as a “true convert. The artists I spoke with are all super-engaged in their practices,” he adds. “They’re young but they really have it together and know what they want to be doing.”
There are also plenty of opportunities for artists outside of the northeast as alum Sarah Russin 84 PR, executive director of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), can attest to. “I was very impressed with the students’ maturity and seriousness, personal direction and the quality of execution in their work,” she says. “It’s never just about the work, but the connection between the work and the person. I advise emerging artists to find a community that supports their development, rather than seeing the art world as a competition.”