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Art, graphic design majors invest big in senior shows

As college students, we’re known for our tight budgets and thin wallets.

We buy ramen for meals, search thrift stores for cheap clothing, and know exactly how many miles we can drive on empty.

But this time of year, budgets are even tighter than usual for some students. Senior art and graphic design majors have it especially tough as they pay off the bills for their required senior shows. At the shows, seniors present their work in the Schnormeier Gallery to family and friends ­— and potential employers.

The shows are an enormous investment of both time and money. In graphic design, for example, students pay to professionally reprint the posters, book jackets, infographics and other projects completed throughout their college career.

Each senior also purchases a portfolio to showcase the strongest projects, prints business cards and resumes, orders items for giveaways and more.

Students are responsible for all of their own show-related costs.

“Everything this year is out-of-pocket,” graphic design senior Elizabeth Greenich said. Greenich described the price tag as “terrifying,” and cautioned underclassmen to “make sure you save every penny.” She cringed when she presented the overall price tag. Students who bought only the bare essentials paid “well over $800 for everything,” she said.

Senior graphic design student Melissa Fraley said that’s an accurate figure; she spent between $800 and $900 on printing and preparing for the show. But that’s on the low end; some students spend twice that much.

Prices for art students’ senior show projects also vary. Art majors have more flexibility in choosing the types of work they will create and exhibit at the show. Some complete their work for less than $500; others spend $1,000 to $2,000.

Leading up to that final moment, art and design projects take on a new level of importance. Graphic design major Casey Meige depicts the life of a senior: “It is THE most important thing in my schedule, and I almost have to treat it as if it is the only thing in my schedule,” he said.

In the final weeks, students spend countless hours in the labs at the Buchwald to put finishing touches on their work.

“The amount of sweat and work in it is immeasurable,” senior graphic design major Jordan Nichols said. MVNU grad Heather Davidson (2013), an art major, agreed and said she remembers “a lot of late nights, a lot of long weekends, and a lot of caffeine.”

Davidson started preparing the summer before her senior year for the show, experimenting with different mediums — and changing her mind several times as the year went on. She described the process as frustrating at times, but incredibly rewarding.

“It was well worth it to finally see the fruition of two semesters worth of work displayed at the gallery, and I don’t think I will ever forget that,” she said.

Graphic design major Shelby Jones, who graduated a year ago, said the work that goes into senior shows gives students confidence when they begin to job hunt, and more advantages when they begin work in the field.

Jones said she walked away from the senior show and related portfolio reviews “feeling like a designer not a student.” Now working as a graphic designer at Quantum Health, “I’ve been surprised how many projects we did in class that have helped me in my job,” Jones said.

Graphic design professor Margaret Allotey-Pappoe said the heavy workload and personal expense students must take on are all worth it because they provide potential employers with evidence of students’ skill and work ethic.

The senior show, she said, teaches students discipline.

“It’s teaching them to pay attention to detail and to keep pushing more,” she said. “It’s about dedication, and it’s never easy.”

The quality of the final portfolio, she said, directly affects students’ future.

“A strong portfolio is everything,” she said. “To get someone to look at your work is everything.

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