2nd annual ‘Portfolio Day’ in Torrington lets students’ art shine

POSTED: 03/12/16, 9:47 PM EST | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
Image right: Pam Bramble, an associate professor of art at the University of Connecticut’s Waterbury campus, examined the colored-ink drawings of Evan Adamcik, 16, of Torrington during the 2nd annual “Portfolio Day” at the Five Points Gallery at 33 Main St. in Torrington Saturday morning.N.F. Ambery — Register Citizen

TORRINGTON >> Pam Bramble, an associate professor of art at the University of Connecticut’s Waterbury campus, told the audience of 45 young and old aspiring local visual artists: “The term ‘art’ is from the Latin ‘to make,’” Bramble said. “You are all makers.” She added later, “You have so many options sitting here because you like to make things. You are devoted to try and make this thing become your vision.”

Bramble and other art educators talked about aspects of what it means to be an artist during the 2nd annual “Portfolio Day” at the Five Points Gallery at 33 Main St. Saturday morning. Faculty from the Hartford Art School; the University of Connecticut; and Northwest Connecticut Community College in Winsted gave attendees feedback and information on furthering their art education at the event during a panel discussion and during one-on-one sessions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Formal portfolios were not required; often attendees brought in one or two artworks for advice.

“Portfolio Day” began with art school representatives standing at tables throughout various parts of the gallery, and giving advice on attendees’ art.

Troy Czarwinski, 17, of Torrington had her chalk pastel artwork evaluated by Power Boothe, professor of painting at the University of Hartford’s art school, while Czarwinski’s mother, Suzanne, looked on.

“I am a graphic designer who works with small businesses, and I am a photographer,” said Suzanne Czarwinski, 54. “All of it is my passion. I recently got my associate’s degree at Northwest Community College.”

She added, “It’s great to get help and encouragement on projects from the experts.”

Max Barton, 16, of Torrington got feedback for his pastel and colored-ink drawings from Lucia Esposito, admissions coordinator at the Hartford Arts School at the University of Hartford in West Hartford.
Barton’s father, Morrice, said, “It’s a good opportunity that one ordinarily doesn’t get.”

After the session, Max Barton said, “I got some good advice. They encouraged me to do more large-scale portraits.”

At 11:30 a.m., attendees sat in rows of chairs in the center of the gallery, and Robert Calafiore, assistant dean of admissions at the University of Hartford’s art school, hosted a panel discussion on what it means to be an artist today.

“Artists are different than from 200 to 500 years ago,” Calafiore said. “Artists are found in studios, boardrooms, factories, schools, laboratories, and more. Artists help define the culture. Art is not just an object; art begins with an idea.”

Calafiore said an idea can translate creatively into various industries. In his capacity as an art professor, Calafiore said his graduates’ fields and industries run the gamut.

“I had a dinner party last night,” he said. “And the guests were my graduates from up to 30 years ago of studying with me.” He said some of his former students include a textiles designer; a Broadway show set creator; and a 3D-print prosthetics limb manufacturer.

Calafiore said, “Art school produces innovators. Artists look at the world and see it in new ways. They have a ‘toolbox’ to use for anything. You may leave school having studied photography. But you are no more or less an artist than if you are prosthetic limb creator rather than a studio artist. The connection between art school and the world is so vast and different.”

Later he said, “You are limitless in possibilities in thinking bigger. The art industry is larger, too.”
Calafiore added that the arts constitute one of Connecticut’s largest industries. He added, “It’s bigger than transportation. It’s an enormous business.” In 2015, the website Newsmax ranked large-scale manufacturing and digital media in third and fourth places behind the insurance and healthcare-bioscience industries.

Each speaker on the panel had a turn to talk. Power Boothe, professor of painting at the University of Hartford’s art school, declared, “All artists are entrepreneurs. Schools don’t teach entrepreneurship but they should.” He added, “The term ‘artistic process’ sounds flaky. But it is a most organic process. To solve problems, you begin planning, and the creativity happens in the implementation. That is when the rubber hits the road.”

Boothe added, “Matisse once said something like ‘I get into trouble, and then I get inspired.’” Matisse was known to have written a friend in 1936: “…(I)f I find that there is a weakness in the whole, I make my way back into the picture by means of the weakness — I re-enter through the breach — and I reconceive the whole.”

Janet Nesteruk, professor of fine arts at Northwestern Community College in Winsted, said, “Art is a natural and invisible part of life. So much in the economy is based on art but we don’t think of it as such.” She said that artists “put themselves at the center of culture and make visually-oriented a culture that needs us.”

UConn art professor Cora Lynn Deibler added that art careers are “not on a straight-forward path.” She added, “It’s more like a fan that opens up. The person shapes the culture. There are thousands of different ways to present art.”

Deibler advised attendees to be flexible in their paths. She said a former student, a sculptor, had designed an unusual “sculpture-like” gown that caught on unexpectedly in popularity.

“She wasn’t aiming for that but she was prepared for the opportunity,” Deibler said. “It was a gorgeous dress, and pretty soon it was worn down runways and shot by professional photographers.” She added, “Young folks can prepare but there are things you can’t predict.”

During the question-and-answer period, a young woman persisted in a question regarding the arts-career success rates after graduation for each of the representatives’ schools.

Nesteruk said first that she would be skeptical about any kind of published list with statistics about success rates, as “success” was a subjective term.

Boothe added, “I would ask, ‘What defines what you are asking?’ Is success making $100,000 or having a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or is it be a great artist and thinker? I look at what students are doing more broadly.”

After the talk, the one-on-one portfolio examinations continued. Bramble talked with Evan Adamcik, 16, of Torrington, looked at his pastel and colored-ink drawings and gave him feedback.

“I would like to design video games eventually,” said Adamcik after his session. “The discussions were pretty nice. I plan to go to Full Sail University in Florida.”

Five Points Gallery associate director Noel Croce said of the talk: “It is nice have something else that is not about ‘the starving artist.’ It gives so many more opportunities.”