Visual Arts

Your portfolio is your performance — presentation is everything.

Style, order, pace… all are very important aspects and can make or break a portfolio presentation. And each institution has its own specific portfolio guidelines. Over 30 years of expertise gained by ArtsBridge faculty working in the admission of visual artists provides extensive knowledge and understanding of what review committees are seeking and how candidates can best present their craft.

“For the first time, I’m able to see my work through the eyes of college admissions.

—  Michael F (student)   


ArtsBridge students explore numerous areas of visual arts:

  • Art & Design Education
  • Art History
  • Communications Design
  • Digital Arts
  • Fashion Design
  • Film & Video
  • Fine Arts
  • Industrial Design
  • Interior Design
  • Photography

Have a passion for visual arts? Contact ArtsBridge »



Frequently Asked Questions about Visual Arts Majors

How can I present my work to increase my chances of admission and possible merrit scholarships?

First of all, be sure and follow the specific portfolio guidelines for each institution exactly as they indicate.  Adjust your portfolio according to their instructions — it is never one size fits all. If the school offers portfolio reviews, be sure to take advantage of that excellent opportunity for an “insider” view of your work. Present your portfolio in a professional manner and show a variety of skills. Admission Review Committees are often more impressed by your ambition and vision as they are by your drawing, painting, or photographic ability. Be sure to show your portfolio to a trusted art teacher to get an outside opinion of your presentation. Your portfolio may be best served by starting and ending with your best work.

What are National Portfolio Days?

National Portfolio Day is an event specifically for visual artists and designers. It is an opportunity for those who wish to pursue an education in the visual and related arts to meet with representatives from colleges accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Representatives will be available to review your artwork, discuss their programs and answer questions about professional careers in art. High school students, parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and college transfer students are encouraged to attend. Go to

How important is my portfolio?

VERY. This is your chance to show everything that you do well. And follow specific directions on the school websites. Different schools have different requirements.

Aside from the art program, what else should I look for in deciding where to attend?

The college selection process is a very complicated one. Try to limit yourself to 4-6 choices based on the things that are important to you. Important things to consider include: geographic location, size and reputation of the school, big city versus small town or rural, the quality and reputation of the faculty, and of course, cost. It is a complicated mix of where you want to be for the next 4 years and which school sees you as a significant asset that they want to accept. With art programs, you need to add to this mix the quality of the student work you see on their web site and in person. Many feel that the single most important indicator of an art program is the student work it produces. It says almost everything you need to know about the quality of teaching and mentorship that occurs there. And, take time to enjoy the process — it usually only happens once in your life!

Should I apply to an independent art school? Or to an art department that is part of a larger university?

That very much depends on what you are looking to achieve in college and beyond. In an independent art school, you are likely to get a very strong grounding in the visual arts and some exposure to liberal arts courses that will be geared to an artistic perspective. In the art department of a university, you may have exposure to a solid but possibly more limited menu of visual art courses. This will be combined with a stronger exposure to the liberal arts, taking classes with majors from throughout the university.

I keep hearing about starving artists. Should I even consider visual arts as a major in college?

Majoring in art is exactly like majoring in any field in college, and in many ways, it is even better. College is always “you get out of it what you put into it”, as the saying goes.  A visual art major is, after graduation, at the same crossroads as an anthropology, psychology, or philosophy major. You all need to know where you will go next. If you continue as a working artist, that's great. The list of student artists going on to successful careers is endless. But like every other major, there are no guarantees. If you choose not to continue in the arts professionally, and choose another career path, you will always have your art to complete your life. After working all day, you come home to the one thing that enhances your life — art.  That is more than someone with a degree in anthropology or psychology can say! The bottom line? Follow your dream!

Which schools and visual arts programs have some of your students attended?

Aside from university-based programs, our students have gone on to art schools such as MICA, Pratt, Parson's and RISD.

How are your workshops geared or tailored to visual artists?

ArtsBridge Visual Art workshops are about the real world of applying to art programs. Working with some of the finest art faculty from around the nation enhances the student’s skill sets and provides an opportunity for clear, concise, and supportive critiques of their work. Students will not just learn about one school's approach, as they would at typical summer programs, but would hear from a variety of faculty who have diverse views on the creation of art. As well, experienced admission professionals provide “behind the scenes”  advice on creating a portfolio that reflects the student’s strongest work as well as how review committees work.

What do colleges look for in a visual artist that is unique to the art form?

Visual artists are expected to be well-rounded individuals, just like any other college applicant. They should have strong grades in all subjects as well as a rich resume of student leadership and involvement, both inside and outside the classroom. The difference, for most visual artists, is that they need to show their skill set in two different ways — on paper and in their art portfolio. The visual artist has a second opportunity to display their talents to the members of the admissions and review committees. This makes the portfolio an all-important part of the process.

What qualities of visual arts separates it from the other arts?

All art is the crossroads of talent, ambition, and energy. Perhaps more than other artists, visual artists are keenly aware of their surroundings. They notice space, color, light, and perspective. Where others may see a great painting and admire it as a whole, a visual artist may see, in addition to the beauty of the piece, the individual components that make up the whole. In short, visual artists often see a very different world.

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