Portfolios due for art majors

By Matt Knutson

Sophomore art majors have one thing on their minds this time of year, and it’s not warm weather or Spring Break.

Sophomore portfolio reviews come at the end of each semester and ultimately determine the fate of art majors.

An art major’s portfolio review is the culmination of two years of work that determines if they get to move on in their major.

For students who doubt they are art savvy, this is a big deal.

Failing a college course is not the greatest thing. Failure sets students back, but there always is room to retake the class and have the new grade replace the old one.

“For some students it may be the first major failure in their life,” said Leif Allmendinger, visual communication department head.

For those who are not familiar, a portfolio is the summation of classes within the art major. A collection of the student’s work is put together and is presented to each department committee that evaluates NIU students on the overall quality of the works the students have presented.

“You work your butt off for two semesters to improve on what you can do, so when you get to the reviews, you are the best you can be,” sophomore art major Sara Kaveney said.

Depending on the emphasis within the art major, failure is not an option.

In competitive programs like visual communication and graphic design, there is about a 40 percent retention rate. That means that if an art major was to fail in his or her emphasis, he or she would no longer be allowed to continue in the major.

For example, if a visual communication student were not to be retained in his or her review, he or she either could change the emphasis to time arts or to art education, if requirements are met. He or she also can change the major altogether. It is uncommon to be given another shot in competitive fields of emphasis within the art major, said Lawrence Gregory, assistant chair for the School of Art.

Students also could go to another university, but most of the other art programs across the country are just as competitive.

“The reason why we don’t take a lot of students is because the field is so competitive and we don’t want to graduate people who will not have jobs when they graduate,” Allmendinger said.

This year, about 40,000 will graduate with graphic design degrees. Of those, about 6,000 get jobs, and 3,000 of those will not remain in the field a year later, Allmendinger said.

It is hard to advance in visual communication and time arts because there is limited access to upper level courses in those emphases, Gregory said.