Art students get tough, real-world experience with senior exhibition

Posted October 28, 2015

Paintings, book covers and pottery adorn the gallery in the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building, all neatly arranged for anyone to walk by and observe in an effective way. All of this is the result of the hard work of seniors in the Art Department at UW-River Falls.

From Oct. 23 to Nov. 2, art students working in various media will be displaying their works to the public, an effort that has taken quite a while for them to produce.

This work though should be expected, because the senior exhibition is one of the most important parts of their education. Students are meant to mount their pieces themselves, write an artist’s statement, a press release, and create a portfolio of their work.

Associate Lecturer Jeannine Kitzhaber is teaching the course that leads these students to the exhibition, and she says that real world experience is the biggest thing these students gain from it all.

“Everything they are doing in this exhibition they can duplicate when they have shows and galleries, when they are applying for jobs,” Kitzhaber said. “They will leave with a portfolio of art and can apply for galleries.”

She went on to say that a lot of what the students are doing now is all on their own, another aspect of being an artist that will be important for each student when they leave the college.

Students in the course have said they have gotten a lot through their experience. One student, Krysta Fisher, spoke of the difficulty that comes in this course.

“The work load for doing an exhibition is pretty crazy. It’s kind of like a juggling act making sure you have everything going off at the time it’s supposed to,” she said in an email interview. “I’ve probably been writing at least five ‘to do’ lists a day, just for my exhibition.”

But things are already looking good for Fisher.

“I’m excited that I have just started my first job as a photographer at a studio in Minnesota,” she said. “All of my experience at UWRF has led me to this amazing opportunity in my dream job.”

Among the other students happy to have gone through the exhibition was Kristopher Stempel, whose paintings cover the inside of the gallery.

“With the senior exhibition class there isn’t much in the way of hand holding,” he said. “I’ll be doing shows and galleries hopefully for the rest of my life… I’d even like to be a curator at some point, so that is good experience.”

Among the things the exhibition has been doing for him, he said that if there was anything that fellow students might learn down the road outside the course is accepting the tough times.

“I feel like if there is something that will come up in time is disappointment,” Stempel said. “There’s going to be a lot of submissions and a lot of rejections. I think like in a smaller campus we don’t get much rejection or really negative feedback. There will be plenty of that down the road.”

The senior exhibitions may be tough and challenging to students, but it cannot be denied by the people who fight through that their art is something worth suffering for more.