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From the Provost

Portfolio Day

After all of the rain, the day was resplendent with sun and the Third Ward was filled with students lugging portfolios of drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, sketchbooks, sculpture, and design. Artists! Designers! Students seeking advice, insight, critique! A confluence of talent! A gathering of skill and expression and gesture!

What you see and hear on Portfolio Day is really the heart of an education in art and design. Practicing artists and designers talking with you, prospective art school students. The unfolding dialogue about you and your visual work, about you and the world of ideas, about where you and your visual work and ideas fit into the world of visual language. How do you communicate and translate ideas visually?

The purpose of pursuing an education in art and design is to find and master your visual voice. We believe that you can do that best in a community of like-minded professionals, practicing artists and designers.

In many of my discussions today with prospective students, we talked about growth. All of the seniors I met were talented. Each presented a portfolio that demonstrated a range of skill and aptitude. Each demonstrated some clear fundamental competence in composition and value. Each demonstrated a curious eye, a mind that was beginning to think differently, that was poised for a challenge.

“Where do you need to grow?” I asked my students. “What’s the next step for you?” Most of them seemed a little caught off-guard by the question. They probably should be. Too often, we do not invite students into their own learning, but that is something we insist on at MIAD. That is the exciting stuff! We want you to be part of the dialogue. In fact, it can’t be a dialogue without you. It can only be a monologue. You need to bring something to the conversation. You bring your work, sure. But you bring something more. Your thinking about your work. Critique and conversation are rooted in growth. That is why we, at MIAD, exist. We’re educators.

As I said, when I asked the students what they needed to work on in order to grow, they seemed caught off guard. In some ways, the question is unfair. After all, they are fully equipped at Portfolio Day to present themselves as bright, ready, and highly polished. And they certainly are! “Growth,” I said. “Pushing past your comfort zone.” When the students looked perplexed, I pointed out the MIAD artists and designers in the room and identified specific learning moments for each. Each of us teaching at MIAD has spent a lifetme of learning a craft, mastering a media, seeking out new media and materials. To grow, you need to venture beyond your strengths. You need to challenge yourself, move past your comfort zone.

I am reminded, today, of how the extraordinary dance teacher Martha Graham spoke about how dancers spend a decade or two mastering their bodies. Each of the dancers can dance beautifully. Each of the dancers can express themselves in ways to evoke powerful emotion. Each of the dancers can move in ways we can only envy. The object of all of this hard work and training and growth as a dancer, Graham said, is so that when you leap, you can defy gravity.

That is what we want for you. That is what the growth and learning is all about. I hope you’ll check us out, whether you visited us on Portfolio Day or not. We’re here, waiting for you. Give us a look.

© 2014 Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
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