Making review a terror or a triumph
Teshia Treuhaft is currently chained to her desk documenting the process of surviving senior year at A&D and her obsession with wood veneer.
The past few weeks the Society of Art Students (“SAS” A&D’s Student Government) has been trying hard to think of good ways to help the sophomores prepare for their sophomore reviews in April.
For those who dont know, Sophomore review is a process that each student at A&D goes through at the end of their fourth semester at Michigan to review their progress and get feedback on their work to date. It works as a check-in and is an excellent opportunity for the student to speak about their work as a whole, meet some new professors and be critiqued. It is a rite of passage and can be either eye-opening or terrifying depending on your perspective.
This past week SAS hosted a sophomore review panel made up of juniors and seniors willing to share their experiences and insight. For those of you who couldn’t be in on the conversation – we’ve put together a little cheat sheet.
Here are both sides of the issue from Claire Liburdi (a little freaking out) and myself (a little advice).
Claire Liburdi is a sophomore at A&D. She aspires to someday be a graphic designer or printmaker, and to study abroad in Italy. Claire enjoys feeding squirrels and baking delicious foods. Her fears include heights, sophomore review, and dolls.
I’m thrilled to think that I’ll be taking stock of my work and understanding the directions I might take in the near future. It’s like I’m Harry Potter with the sorting hat, but my reviewers will suggest sculpture or furniture design instead of Gryffindor or Slytherin. Except there’s no magic or fame or tomfoolery.
At the same time, the phrase “Sophomore Review” on its own makes my heart jump. I’m terrified. When I start to really think about it, all sorts of questions keep me up at night.
What have I done in the past two years?
What am I doing with my life?
What does an artist’s resume even look like?
What happens if I forget the charming, hugely intelligent presentation I prepare for my reviewers?
What if, during the presentation, the projector falls on my head and I’m knocked unconscious? Does that cut into my 30 minutes?
What if I use that trick of picturing your audience in their underwear and I can’t stop laughing?
I’m having a mid-undergraduate-art-student-life crisis over here, so I am in the process of compiling a list of the things I have to do before April 18:
1) Organize images.
I estimate that approximately 90% of my work from the past two years has been documented in some way. Now, my challenge is to put them all in the same place, sift through them, analyze patterns, and put the pictures in order.
2) Update my resume.
Condensing my life into one page is going to be difficult since I tend to be all over the map with extracurriculars. I also need to redesign it to reflect my skills as an aspiring graphic designer. No pressure.
This is where I discuss where I’ve been and where I’m going. My statement is currently saved on my computer with the following content: “AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WRITE SOMETHING CLAIRE!!!!!” I have great hope that my statement will improve after reviewing my images.
4) Meet with John Luther.
What am I doing with my life, John?
Goal: chill out and don’t talk too fast.
I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
Teshia Treuhaft is a senior at A&D. She aspires to someday be a furniture designer, and has studied abroad in Italy. Teshia enjoys making google docs and trying to calm the nerves of sophomores about their reviews. Her fears include finishing her IP project on time and under budget.
1) Consider Organizing around trends, not necessarily around timeline or materials.
The best way that I have seen students prepare is to gather EVERYTHING. If you gather every project you have, you can begin to sort through and look at a developing body of work, not a collection of projects for classes. Do you have a collection of graphic design projects or a collection of projects that all center on a certain trend? Maybe the work does center on a material exploration (veneer and bent wood anyone?) – then be honest about that. Think critically about how to present your work in a way that is logical. Sometimes these will follow chronologically, but if they don’t, it is your job to reorganize as you see fit.
If you can’t see these trends or things aren’t fitting together as well as you’d hoped – ASK A THIRD PARTY. Make it easy for them and show them a photo dump (such as a one-project-a-slide PowerPoint) and ask them to focus on the content not the quality of photography (that can be improved later). (SAS will be organizing an open house to do this later this month.) Second, explain your work to someone prior to getting up in front of the review board. If they can point out even one moment of confusion in your explanation, you have improved your presentation ten-fold and avoided a potentially lengthy discussion about clarification and will be able to get to the meat of your work faster.
2) Tell your story (succinctly)
Don't count on your reviewers being acquainted with your work-- lots of time students and faculty are meeting for the first time. When you tell you story, it is your responsibility to present as full a picture of your background and how it has fed into your work as possible in a very short amount of time. Draw in personal experiences. Are you considering a minor to fuel your creative work? Do you love baroque architecture? Have you studied abroad somewhere that affected your work? Pick and choose your moments but tell them about yourself and your experiences and think critically about how these experiences have affected the work you have created.
3) Don’t prepare by thinking about what OTHERS will ask, prepare by thinking about YOU.
Consider your work; don’t spend a lot of time anticipating what you will be asked because you are leading the discussion. The best way to prepare is to have thought a lot about yourself and take charge of the presentation. The reviewers will have their moment to respond but they will only have what you have given them to go on – so prepare enough that your reviewer’s response is well informed and an interesting conversation can develop that will be helpful to you. When you have the pleasure of having three smart people who are passionate about art and design in a room with you, use it to your advantage.
4) Don’t think a bad project makes a bad review.
Show something that isn’t your best if you learned something profound and you can speak to that. This is done with caution, because you want to spin it in a way that it adds something to your narrative. Maybe it pairs with a subsequent piece that was more successful as a result of what you learned. Make sure the story about it makes sense with your presentation, It can be powerful and very mature to share with your panel how a failure pushed you farther than a successful piece.
In addition consider the following,
Research your review panel. It’s unnecessary (and not advised) to stalk them in the hallways of A&D, but you should attempt to understand their perspective just as you they will be attempting to understand yours.
Be on time. (Duh…. But really)
Consider If there are any pieces you want to show in person (and if you need a friend to help transport them.)
Dress professionally and comfortably (but don’t get that confused with boring. These are artists and designers, they value a distinct aesthetic.)
Bring a notebook to write notes.
Soak in what is being said. Be present in the conversation, even when you aren’t saying anything.
Ask for clarification if you don’t understand someone’s comment.
Thank your reviewers; they are doing you a favor by offering to share your brain space.
If reviewers suggest artists / books / pieces to look at – DO IT. Likewise, if there is a professor that really hit the nail on the head and gave you good suggestions, ask them for more via a polite, follow-up e-mail.
Relax and reflect on the experience.
And, finally, look out for more SAS-sponsored Sophomore Review events to help you prepare!