Snaking Through the Crowds on National Portfolio Day

National Portfolio Day at Jacob Javits Center in NYC.

National Portfolio Day at Jacob Javits Center in NYC.

Portfolios poured through the open doors along with their respective owners, and I was one of them on the recent National Portfolio Day at New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center. Others whose age and ambitions matched my own sat waiting in line with their large, flat tickets into art college, which would showcase their skill or lack thereof. Relief relaxed my anxiety as I said to myself: “Well I guess getting here an hour early was a good idea, the line isn’t that bad.”

“No, that’s not where the line starts”, a guide corrected me with a weary smile. I made my way behind the protruding wall obscuring the view. A serpentine line wrapped around the perimeter of the Javits Center, the tail of the mass of artists and company reaching almost towards its start.

My disbelief lasted even to when the line was being herded down the escalators into the official start of the event. A wide space lined with tables opened before the crowd and representatives waited patiently for the chaos that would probably ensue, and did.

Aggressive suburban moms drilled exasperated kids on how to speak while on line, critically observing other kids’ talents and seemingly measuring them up to their own child’s. Disgruntled dads criticized representatives’ time management skills for each person, and for a certain line for a certain school, I would have to agree. I, myself, employed the divide and conquer strategy, where I would wait on one line, while my dad would wait on another.

Despite extra pressure they might lay upon you, I would recommend bringing family for spot-holding to quicken the process. Especially so if you want to see more than just your top-three or so schools. Due to the sheer amount of people at National Portfolio day, seeing all schools assembled is definitely impossible, and seeing more than five or so is also unlikely.

Though for the schools you do see, don’t get dejected if some seem more accepting of your portfolio than others. Some of the insight I received from this chaotic, but helpful event is that different schools want different things. There isn’t a general sort of art portfolio that every school wants. Even some of the more seemingly traditional schools shocked me by complaining about a surplus of “observation work” and “traditional skill.”

But speaking generally, National Portfolio Day did improve my understanding of different art schools and my situation as an artist as well. Seeing that many people applying to the same art schools as me made me feel small, like just one of thousands of applicants. Though it made me feel anxious, it also made me want to do better to both match and surpass other artists there, as many of them displayed amazing talent from the pieces they carried around. It also made me feel a bit unprepared for art college and a future in art, but in this way National Portfolio Day made me reevaluate my priorities and gave me a better understanding of what I’m getting myself into.

– by Cheyenne Haskins ’16