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Students Show Art in the Community

Artwork produced as part of the Portfolio Emphasis class.
Rebecca A. Eckland

Students in Rossitza Todorova’s Portfolio Emphasis class will be showing their artwork at various venues throughout the community starting Thursday, Dec. 5. For each student, their exhibition is the culmination of a semester-long journey of creating no less than ten pieces of original artwork that conform to a theme they developed in tandem with learning the business side of art. 

“Professional development is really important for an artist,” said Instructor Rossitza Todorova. “In college, we learn how to make artwork, we learn the formal elements of art and design, how to use medium, but we also learn how to create our own ideas. But when you step out of an academic setting, the things that we’re learning in this class are going to allow these students to continue to connect and network with people in the community and to have exhibitions past college.  And this kind of professional development is one of the most important things that they can learn.” 

Professional development for students in Todorova’s class means learning how to describe their show in 30 seconds or less (what’s called the “elevator pitch”) and how to create “deliverables” that enable each artist to market themselves to potential galleries.  These skills are honed through one-on-one conversations between student-artists in class, in-class presentations and conversations with community members as each student sought out an appropriate venue to host an exhibition of their work (which is another requirement of the course.) 

“I would go into too much detail in what I was trying to convey. With an elevator speech, you have to tell a person what they want to know in 30 seconds, and so you... need to go into overall statement, and then people will be interested in knowing the meaning behind your work,” said Kate Clement, a student whose exhibition “Step Into Daylight and Let Go” is a personal narrative recounting the red flags in a past relationship and will be shown at Reno Art Works on Dec. 5. 

Answering the Question “What Really Matters?”

Much of the work students do in the art Portfolio Emphasis classes asks them to distill their work into something that’s easily communicated through either a 30-second description or even a business card. 

“I’d describe this class as a professional development class,” said Ashley Frost, whose body of work explores her personal experience with trichotillomania, a disorder in which subjects involuntarily pull out their hair. Getting that message from canvas to a potential exhibitor was a challenge, but one Frost and her colleagues were able to navigate with success. “I’m using brushstrokes or mixed media to create different line weights and quality. By using that, I’m building these 3-D textures or marks that imply this emotional side to my work, or even the physical stuff. For example, in one of my pieces, I cut pieces of canvas and layered it on top of string and different paints to show an abstract version of epidermal cells. Because that’s the big focal point, how they’re being damaged by this disorder.” Frost will exhibit her work at StoneCreations of Nevada on Thursday, Dec. 12.

At the beginning of the semester, students were also tasked with writing a personal obituary. The idea was to force students to answer a difficult question: “What’s the point of all this art?” 

“It was difficult,” said Frost. “But, it was actually helped me to look at the bigger picture. As a student, it’s easy to get this kind of tunnel vision—but [it’s important to realize] what is the point of all of this is. Or, to answer the question: what is the most important thing that you want to accomplish?”

This was the entry point for students to begin not only exploring the meaning behind their art, but also the different approaches they could take to market it. To that end, Todorova brought in art professionals from the community to review each student’s portfolio. Guests included Parker Stremmel from Stremmel Galleries, Miya Hannan from UNR, as well as Mark Hammon from Nevada Fine Arts and JoAnne Northrup from the Nevada Museum of Art. 

The Business Side of Art

In addition to learning how to articulate their art in a meaningful and compelling way, students in the class literally became their own marketing team of one: designing their own postcards,  business cards and crafting an email marketing campaign. 

The results are an impressive array of motifs, colors and designs that reflect the individual artist, which is the point of the class. In addition to the marketing materials and the artwork itself, students are also required to include the following documents in their professional portfolios: documentation on all their images, inventory sheets, an image list, a press release for the exhibition and art opening event, artist statement, bio, an outline of their artist’s presentation and a resume.  It might sound like a lot, but each element serves a specific purpose in an artist’s journey into gaining a professional livelihood through their work.

“Once you’ve created all of these documents, you have them and you can always refer back to what you did and do it again next time,” said Todorova. “What I want for students is to look at what they created in class and to say: ‘I know how to do that, I’ve done that before, and I know how to do it again.’”

Portfolio Emphasis is offered each fall semester, enabling art students in their second year to create quality work and a professional portfolio—two required elements of an application to a bachelor of fine arts program. The class is also typically taken concurrently with “Photography of Art and Artifacts” which teaches students how to take high quality and professional photographs of their own work and “Gallery Practices,” which teaches students to install and de-install art in a gallery setting, writing press releases for gallery shows, how to create labels and the proper handling technique for artwork. 

Although the class has been demanding, students say that the journey has definitely been worth it. “Going into this class, I thought it was going to be all about art,” said Gayer whose exhibition “Hunted” uses symbolism and metaphor to articulate the oftentimes complicated cycle of abuse, and will be on display at the Domestic Violence Resource Center beginning Dec. 6. “Even though it’s been hard and even a little scary at first, I feel like I can do this now on my own. I have a better idea of what being an artist is actually like. That’s exciting.”

While the physical portfolio—the documentation of their work over the course of the semester—is the “final project,” students in the Art Emphasis class end the semester with knowledge that will carry them into the next stage of their careers as professional artists.

The exhibitions for Art Emphasis students started on Nov. 2, will continue through Dec. 13, and include the following students:

  • Vickie Collins-Libby: exhibition held at the Nevada Mayflower Luncheon, Nugget Casino on Nov. 2. 
  • Kate Clement: Opening reception held on Thursday, Dec. 5, 5–8 p.m. at Reno Art Works.
  • Krista Lee Gayer: Opening reception held on Friday, Dec. 6, 3–5 p.m. at the Domestic Violence Resource Center.
  • Kaylee Fitzgerald, a.k.a. Kalcendony: Opening Reception on Friday, Dec. 6th, 6–8pm at the Laika Press.
  • Nicole Teague: Exhibition and workshop  held on Saturday, Dec. 7, 11–3 p.m. at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum.
  • Kaylee Soto: Exhibition and Open House on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 12–6 p.m. at Artech.
  • Kristina Lammers: Opening reception on Sunday, Dec. 8 from 11 a.m.–3 p.m.  at the Wilbur May Ranch House located at Rancho San Rafael Park.
  • Maria Mazurowski: Opening reception on Monday, Dec. 9 from 5–7 p.m. at the RMDT Student Gallery, Dandini Campus.
  • Ashley Frost: Opening reception on Thursday, Dec. 12 5:30–8:30 p.m. at StoneCreations of Nevada.
  • Gabriel Faw: Opening reception on Friday, Dec. 13 5–8 p.m. at Artista DIY Paint and Craft Studio, Fernley.

For more information about studying Visual Art at TMCC, contact the department at 775-673-7291.