2017 Michigan National Portfolio Day Propels Emerging Artists and Designers Forward

Posted November 10, 2017 in Public

The Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) campus was humming with energy and inspiration on Sunday, October 29, when the college played host to 2017 Michigan National Portfolio Day.

The event offered emerging artists and designers the chance to have their work reviewed and connect with representatives from 29 accredited art and design colleges from around the U.S. and Canada. 340 participants attended, including many who came to Grand Rapids intent on discovering what KCAD’s vibrant creative community has to offer. 

Group of people gathered around a table to check in for an eventBetween participants and their supporters, KCAD hosted 772 guests during Michigan National Portfolio Day

“KCAD was thrilled to share our collective energy and expertise in giving these students encouragement and critical advice on how to invest their creativity for their futures,” said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “We hope that all who attended walked away inspired and empowered with an understanding of what it takes to be a creative professional.”

183 attendees had their portfolios reviewed by KCAD faculty members who most closely aligned with their discipline of interest. Meanwhile, KCAD Admissions team members and other staff volunteers were on hand to answer questions and, prior the portfolio reviews, led tours of campus, showcasing resources and student work from each of the college’s 17 specialized undergraduate programs

Line of people standing in a hallway(above): NPD participants wait excitedly for their turn to connect with KCAD faculty; (below): The KCAD portfolio review area was buzzing with activity, with 183 reviews conducted over a four-hour period

bird's-eye view of people sitting at tables with artwork

For most attendees, it was their first time having their work critiqued in such a fashion. However, nerves quickly vanished when they realized KCAD faculty were there to help them identify their strengths, discuss goals, and explore all the possibilities of an art and design education.

“I had these ideas in my head of where I was with my work, and it was nice to hear those ideas articulated in the feedback,” said Steven Timmis, a college transfer student from Troy, Mich. “Things kind of fell in place in terms of where I need to improve.”

Timmis, who’s interested in studying illustration and animation, came away from the experience deeply impressed.

“I like KCAD as a school,” he said. “It has a great Illustration program, and I really like the size and feel of the campus, especially that it’s near woods and beaches.”

Woman and a man sitting across from each other at the table Graphic Design Associate Professor Suzanne Jonkman gives an NPD attendee feedback on his work

For Courtney Sharp, a high school senior from Holland, Mich. interested in drawing, her portfolio review session helped affirm her desire to take her creative practice to a higher level.

“KCAD has a really good Drawing program, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the professors,” she said. “I can keep drawing and drawing on my own, but I want to be able to expand and have guidance. I’ve seen the [KCAD student] drawings on the sixth floor, and I say to myself, ‘I can’t wait to be able to do that.’”

Family looks on attentively as man speaks and gesturesIn connecting with attendees, KCAD faculty like Drawing Assistant Professor Scott Dickson (right) offered not only critiques of creative work, but advice on maximizing the value of an art and design education as well

For other attendees like college transfer student Sam Taylor, attending National Portfolio Day was part of a larger transformation. Feeling disconnected after two years studying psychology, Taylor came to the KCAD portfolio review session with an armful of intriguing paintings and a fierce desire to realize his creative potential.

“I realized that [psychology] wasn’t what I wanted to do; I just didn’t feel passionate about it. I’ve always been interested in art, so I took some painting classes and received some positive feedback from my professors that really encouraged me to keep pursuing it,” Taylor said. “Now, I’m sure it’s something I really want to explore more, and KCAD’s Painting program seems like a great place where I can try other forms of media and bring other things into my artwork.”

Another student’s portfolio review convinced her that KCAD’s Graphic Design program offered the immersive experiences she’d been craving.

“At KCAD, I feel like I’ll be designing with a purpose and designing things that I’m very invested in; I’ll have an aspect of myself in my design,” she said. 

Woman speaking to younger womanFaculty weren’t the only ones reviewing portfolios; KCAD President Leslie Bellavance offered feedback and guidance to attendees as well

Even those attendees who are just starting to think about college, like Andrew Tripp, a high school junior from Grand Blanc, Mich., came away from KCAD portfolio reviews with a refined sense of direction.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Tripp said of the experience. “I’m not graduating until next year, but I’m already a lot less nervous thinking about college than I was previously.”

Tripp is a high school dual enrollment student at KCAD. He works in several mediums, but especially loves creating comic book sketches and characters.

“Based on my experiences in dual enrollment, I really like the programs at KCAD, and the people that I’ve met from here,” he said. “Grand Rapids is an artsy city, so this is a place where I’d really enjoy going to school.”

The next opportunities to Connect to KCAD are on November 21, 2017 and December 7, 2017 from 10:00am – 3:00pm.