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The Art of Networking

The Art of Networking

At the 2015 Fine Arts Portfolio Review, Tess Spalty 14 PT/MAT 15 unveils a collection of trippy, surrealistic paintings of ghostly figures hovering in melting hotel rooms. Inspired by recurrent dreams, the ethereal works are created by splashing watery dyes across sheets of sheer muslin.

“I imagine that once you apply dye to the canvas, there’s no going back,” notes Erin Becker, director of the Cambridge Art Association, as she inspects Spalty’s intriguing portfolio. “It’s like extreme watercolor – which yields incredibly raw work with a bit of an edge. I truly hope you continue experimenting with this medium.”

Their exchange was just one of many that took place at the Rhode Island Convention Center as more than 120 students connected with approximately 40 arts professionals – including gallery owners, directors, curators, residency program directors and exhibiting artists. Representatives from Boston Sculptors Gallery, Drive-By Projects, ICA Boston, Mixed Greens and many other fine arts organizations offered thoughts on student work, pointers on how to enhance interview skills and insights regarding trends in the contemporary art market.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for students to make genuine connections before graduation,” notes Susan Andersen, associate director of the Career Center. “And the reviewers are eager to get acquainted with work being produced by the next generation of artists. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

At a nearby table, Mo Kong MFA 15 DM presents a body of diverse work inspired by physical wonders of the world. Cory Oberlander, director of Providence-based experimental gallery GRIN, is especially taken with a visual narrative focused on the mysterious deaths of Chinese coal miners. “It’s an adventurous project that required a lot of journalistic research,” he notes. “Kong’s work is the type of art we get over-the-moon excited about. We’d love to include it in a show.”

Melissa S. Armstrong 07 ID – a sculptor and installation artist who explores natural forms generated by growth and decay – attended the full-day event for the fifth time, eager to share advice with students hoping to make it as fine artists. Having shown work in New York galleries, participated in residencies and co-founded an artist cooperative, she’s now preparing for a move to Alaska, where she’ll be doing fieldwork in Katmai National Park before attending graduate school at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“I’ve had many day jobs, so I can speak to some of the ways artists can stay afloat after school,” Armstrong says. “And I generally encourage people to be open to experiences that support their creative process. But it’s also important for artists to be selfish with their time. If you don’t protect the hours you want to spend in the studio, someone or something else will take them. Defend your practice.”

–Abigail Crocker

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