In my grad school, the MFA students were required to take a professional practices class. It was technically a photography class, titled “Portfolio Photography,” but it was really professional practices, with a strong emphasis on photography. The class was intended for students who were about to graduate and who were going to apply for teaching jobs or send packets to galleries. Some undergrads would take the class to work on their application packets for grad school.
I think more schools are incorporating this type of class into the studio art curriculum. It’s important for art students to have at least some idea of how to promote themselves when they get out in the “real world.”
My painting professors would include some of this real world advice every now and then, too, by requiring reading (such as Taking the Leap) and discussions. We would often watch art-related videos during our class lunch breaks. I remember one in particular that was about the business of art (I think it was one of those Art City videos).
Someone in the video was talking about how he tells his art students that they should just drop out of school, take the $40,000 they would have spent on school, and spend $1000 each on 40 parties. His point was that if you want to make it in the art world, the MFA isn’t important, but who you know is.
Anyway, I wanted to talk about the class I took and what I learned.
Since it was a photography class, we spent some time on basic photography, how a camera works, lighting, developing slides, etc. How to use a light meter and set up lights in the studio to shoot 2-D and 3-D work.
20 slides of 2-D work shot in the studio (including artwork shot from books), 20 slides of 3-D work shot in the studio, and 20 slides of 3-D sculpture shot outdoors.
Self portraits (for promotional purposes).
Elements of artist’s statements, writing exercises, and submit examples of good statements from other artists.
Resume or Curriculum Vitae
What to include, formatting, editing, etc.
How to work a slide projector. How to give a successful slide presentation. Attend and review artist’s lectures.
How to scan in slides, adjust them in Photoshop, and import them into a PowerPoint presentation along with resume and artist’s statement.
There were two final projects:
1. Create an attractively designed packet to promote yourself that includes 20 slides, resume, artist’s statement, self portrait, printed image of one piece of artwork, and CD with PowerPoint presentation (also to include 20 images, artist’s statement, and resume).
2. Present a 20-minute slide lecture on your work, using no more than 40 slides.
The class was very beneficial. I used much of what I learned to create my proposal packets that I sent to art centers and galleries. The practice giving presentations was also very valuable.
Have you taken a similar class? What do you think of these types of classes? Should they be required in university art programs?