May 12, 2011

The exhibition “Graffiti Wall” that opened April 27, 2011, pulls together works as varied as digital photographs, a hand-stitched quilt, and a bright green robot–the result of allowing 12 graduating art majors to choose a grab bag of works from their Gallaudet careers. But perhaps the most unique part of the show is its origin.

This exhibition came to fruition through the work of Art Department majors in the new course ART 492: “Portfolio/Senior Exhibit.” According to photography professor Johnston Grindstaff, “This course is intended to prepare students for the real world, post-graduation.” He taught the course itself, but each of the Art Department faculty helped in advising students in the areas of preparing and improving resumes, writing artist statements, selecting works and hanging a show, and creating appealing portfolios.

The graduating art majors were required to attend talks by a number of on- and off-campus guest speakers who shared with them real life experiences and success stories. Each student was also required to have at least one interview with an employer or apply for a graduate school in line with his or her ideal career path. No matter the major, Grindstaff said, students will need certain skills and experiences to find success. “Polishing their professional and academic identities is essential for the students as they enter the job market and pursue advanced degrees,” he said.

The approach of the new class seems to be working. Several students applied to master of fine arts programs, striving for the highest level degree in the art field. One has already accepted an offer from a program in San Francisco, Calif. Another student is working in Austin, Tex., filming a new work by deaf filmmaker Mark Wood.

“It has been a great experience for me as an art historian,” said class member Erika Ruth. “I learned how to use a team and set up an exhibition at an art museum or art gallery.” Ruth added that a presentation by a working art historian and class discussions helped steel her for a difficult job search during tough economic times. “I have to learn how to have a plan B instead of just a plan A,” she said.

In the last weeks of the semester, the students organized and put up their own senior show. The works were so varied because the seniors represented the gamut of Art Department majors, including art history, digital media, graphic design, photography, and studio art.

“Graffiti Wall” will be on display in the Linda K. Jordan Gallery in the Washburn Art Building through May 27. Also showing in Washburn is the exhibition “By Yours Truly,” a collection of work by the spring 2011 “Photojournalism” and “Digital Photography” classes. It is currently on display on the second floor.

–Rhea Yablon Kennedy

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