Jul 20, 2009

Got Talent?

Students in the performing and visual arts have fantastic opportunities to meet representatives from colleges, universities, conservatories, and other educational institutions with specialized programs designed to further talent through post-secondary education. If you play an instrument, sing, dance, or have particular artistic ability, you should consider attending one of seventeen Performing and Visual Arts (PVA) College Fairs sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Targeted to students interested in pursuing undergraduate or graduate study in theater, visual arts, graphic design, music, dance, and other related disciplines, these fairs bring together experts who provide information on educational opportunities, admission requirements, and financial aid. They also advise on portfolio development and auditions. Free and open to the public, PVA College Fairs do not require pre-registration although the opportunity to register is offered online for several fairs scheduled in specific areas of the country. Our nearest fair is scheduled for Sunday, October 25th, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

For students specifically interested in visual arts, the National Portfolio Day Association sponsors a series of Portfolio Days in 38 US and Canadian cities. During these events, students receive free advice, counseling, and critique from some of the best academics in the art business. A couple of years ago, I attended a Portfolio Day at the Ringling School of Design, in Sarasota, Florida. It was one of the more inspiring experiences I’ve had as a college counselor. Kids literally drove from the furthest reaches of the country to make the event and stood in lines clutching portfolios, paintings, sculpture, pottery, and other art works. There were sketchbooks, works in progress, and finished pieces—some small and others quite sizeable. At the head of each line, experts from NASAD-accredited colleges took considerable time to offer support, constructive criticism, and to give pointers on how to go about building a portfolio. I was knocked out by the caring and help so freely offered. No one was hurried and every question was answered. Several (not all) participating schools were even willing to accept portfolios on the spot as the visual portion of an individual application.

Portfolio Days begin in late September and end in late January at the Ringling School. Free and open to the public, the events require no registration and operate on a first come, first served basis. Students in our area can attend on Saturday, November 7th at Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond), Saturday, December 5th at the Corcoran College of Art and Design (Washington DC), or Sunday December 6th at the Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore MD).

Note these events are not restricted to seniors or others in the process of applying to college. Underclassmen are strongly encouraged to get a head start by taking advantage of the opportunity to get free advising from experts in the arts. High schools don’t always offer specialized arts counseling, and the application processes can be a little complicated. But between the PVA College Fairs and Portfolio Days, help and information are readily available.

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