Pictured above is senior Olivia Stitham wearing a Massachusetts College of Art and Design shirt. Stitham was one of the six Wayland High School students who applied to art school this year. “The process is really fun, but also exhausting. You get to make a ton of art, but you have to photograph, edit, mat, upload and submit all of your work, which takes more than a period I learned,” Stitham said.

A look into the process of applying to art school

The veins in her eyes throb as she struggles to keep them open. ‘Just another a few minutes more and I’ll be done,’ she thinks to herself. She’s been staying up late, mixing colors on her palette and attacking the canvas with her brush. After another ten strokes, she sighs in relief and crumbles into her chair. Brushing the sweat off her brow, she smiles at her masterpiece. This painting was sure to get her in.

A few students at WHS start preparing their college application a year or even two years in advance. Students who wish to attend art schools must not only provide transcripts and write essays, they must also submit a portfolio of their work. Generally, these students will spend hours working on each piece.

In senior Annice Kim’s experience, most portfolios consist of 12 to 15 pieces. She also stated that some schools have different portfolio requirements for each major, which is why she first had to decide what she wanted to major in. Kim decided to major in communications design at Pratt Institute.

Like some schools ask for specific supplemental essays, some art schools require specific pieces of art to be submitted with the portfolio. For example, Rhode Island School of Design is known for having their applicants submit artwork depicting a bicycle. Some schools also require applicants to physically present their portfolio.

“My portfolio’s really been something I’ve been working on since sophomore year,” senior Calvin Laituri said. “For my different portfolios I had different pieces of work, so in total I probably had 40 different pieces in addition to the 2 or 3 special pieces I made for the schools themselves.”

The submission process is often done electronically, although there are some schools that require art to be sent through the mail. According to senior Olivia Stitham, many schools have students upload art to SlideRoom, “which is kind of like the Common App of art schools.”

In order to upload their art to the website, they must first “mat” their artwork, photograph and edit it. Matting is the process of framing the artwork by placing it on a mat, usually a black sheet of paper.

“You have to cut them and tape them on, and it’s a pain because they have to be a specific measurement to the artwork. The mat board is very expensive, so if you mess it up by like a fifth of an inch, you have to cut a new one,” Stitham said.

According to both Laituri and Stitham, the process of preparing a portfolio is very time consuming. Laituri commented on the need to start early in order to produce a good portfolio.

“You have to be working on this for years in advance. It’s not just something you can do a few months ahead of time. You have to be really dedicated and work a long time to get prepared for that,” he said.

Similarly, Stitham said that working far in advance helped them a lot.

“You basically work on your portfolio from whenever you start making serious art. I mean this more in the sense that every piece you make helps you improve even if you don’t actually use it to apply,” Stitham said. “I saw even from this year I improved so much from the fall because I was making so much art. Although, you’re really only supposed to submit stuff to colleges that you made in the last two years.”

Both Kim and Stitham received guidance from art teacher Janet Armentano when putting their application together.

“I would say WHS as a whole really supported me, but Mrs. Armentano works day and night for her students. She gives feedback, photographs, helps edit work, mats pieces, helps upload, etc. She even helped me with my essays and helped me choose between schools,” Stitham said. “She always would talk to me and help me with my ideas and how to transfer them into my work. She’s just an overall great person, and we’re so lucky to have her. She’s like my second mom and I love her.”

Kim and Laituri submitted their applications in January and February, respectively. Stitham, however, applied early action and began submitting their artwork as early as December.

According to Laituri, the touring process of art schools is different as well. There are many things prospective applicants must consider when visiting the school. They must consider how they will feel there, if the technology is up to date, if art resources are readily available and if they’ll have subjects around them that they find inspiring.

“In January, I went to Savannah College of Art and Design, which is the school I’m going to. I went down to Savannah, and it was really interesting. I saw the campus and whatnot,” Laituri said. “You look for student work, and you see what’s coming out of the student body — if you think that’s what you want to do or that’s the quality you want to have.”

Students applying to art school get some different types of questions from interested peers and family members.Rather than a simple, “Where are you applying,” art students often get the question: “Why art school?” For Laituri, the question was hard to grapple with, but he found the answer.

“It’s always been something I’ve been thinking about. Art is always something I wanted to study, but you know, it’s not ‘where you make the big money.’ I kind of had that in the back of my mind you know because that’s not really a real career,” Laituri said. “I thought about it more and saw that I didn’t want to do mathematics or biology or any of those things and realized that graphic design was a good balance between art and something that I could really get a job in.”

Students may have many different reasons for applying to art school, but one reason that they share is a passion for the subject.

“I’ve always loved art,” Kim said. “I can’t imagine doing something that doesn’t involve the arts in some way.”

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