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Abstract: Artists have a long portfolio tradition. Some start to put together their portfolios before they have had any formal training or even before they have any notion of becoming an artist. They simply begin to collect and organize their work, sharing it from time to time with family and friends, perhaps as an occasional exhibition.
Later, in the formal context of an artist’s education, the portfolio becomes more than a collection of organized work—it is the critical vehicle for an artist’s education and creative development. The artist brings sketches, work in progress, failed projects, and final work to class and studio sessions for discussion. Work in progress is reviewed, often privately by the instructor or artist mentor. Class sessions can involve students commenting on each other’s work under the guidance of the instructor or asking for feedback about specific concerns. These interactions often continue informally with classmates or friends outside of class.
The artist’s portfolio is ongoing. Work carries over from class to class, year to year. Work can be stored away for future reference or can be kept close by for continued reflection. Ideas from a previous course or independent work can take on unexpected significance in a future context. From time to time, stepping back and looking over a body of work for a show or presentation can reveal new connections and directions that may not have been apparent before.
The common goal of these interactions is to help the student become an "Artist." Attending classes and taking tests are not enough. In addition, simply collecting work without getting feedback is unlikely to offer new perspectives that will help the student develop and evolve as an artist. The portfolio is thus a catalyst for this feedback—for communication and interaction with teachers, mentors, peers, colleagues, friends, and family. It provokes new ideas and new directions and facilitates reflection on and reevaluation of accomplishments. The artist’s portfolio provides the foundation for a continuum of learning experiences that can evolve in unexpected ways.