Art Students Learn to Sell Their Work at National Portfolio Day

Annual event brings together art school aspirants for personalized critiques by school representatives.

High school students receive critiques of their work from faculty at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. (Sydney Elle Gray/GW Today)
November 20, 2017

By Ruth Steinhardt

Hundreds of would-be arts students packed the JW Marriott Hotel Saturday morning for Washington, D.C.’s, National Portfolio Day, hosted by the George Washington University and the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design.

The students had gathered—some with piles of notebooks, some lugging huge canvases, others with virtual portfolios on their iPads and phones—for critiques of their work by representatives from 58 schools of art and design. The portfolio reviews are intended to make students stronger candidates for admission.

Luis Mencias, a senior photography student from the Durham School of the Arts in Durham, N.C., said representatives had told him he needed to include more hand sketches as well as photographs. “They want to make sure you have a good eye,” he said.

That feedback would definitely affect his application process, said Mr. Mencias, whose top school choices are GW and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Professors Kevin Patton and Barbara Brennan were both attending their first Portfolio Day as representatives of the Corcoran School, and both said they were surprised and impressed by the breadth of talent on display. Mr. Patton said he’d seen a particularly good response when he explained the Corcoran’s guiding principles of creativity, innovation and empathy, articulated by Corcoran School Director Sanjit Sethi.

“Students and parents have been incredibly responsive to understanding an arts education centered around those three values,” Mr. Patton said. “And it’s unique—none of the other schools are able to articulate that kind of vision.”

In line on the other side of the huge ballroom, Duke Ellington School of the Arts senior Jordan Jenkins stood with his mother, Juliet, both rocking matching blue hair. A dancer and artist herself, Ms. Jenkins said her son had been an artist from childhood—and that he’d left crayon-smudged proof all over the baseboards of her house.

Now that he’s getting ready to go to college, “I would like him to challenge himself,” Ms. Jenkins said. As a mother, she’d be happy if he stayed nearby, but more importantly, “I want him to go wherever he wants and to experience awesomeness there.”

At the Corcoran table, Oakton High School senior Andrea Morales showed reviewers her stippled canvases and sharp, vividly textured photographs of animals from her native Guatemala. She said the feedback would help her personalize her applications by school.

“I know I can’t please everyone, but I hope I can please the right people,” she said.


University News


Aspiring Artists Convene for National Portfolio Day

November 24, 2014
GW hosts high school students and colleges from across the country at the Corcoran School.