Preparing for Life as a Professional Artist

For 70 years, the students at the Cleveland Institute of Art have independently organized every aspect of their annual Student Independent Exhibition (SIE), from selecting the jurors and organizing artwork drop-off in the gallery to designing the postcards and installing the selected works. Each year, the show features a variety of artwork in a range of media and subject matter. Collectively, the exhibition showcases the various concentrations offered by the Institute, as well as work created in addition to the students' official coursework and produced outside of the confines of the classroom walls.

Each year an organizing committee of student leaders select and invite the jurors, promote the show, solicit donations for awards, check in their fellow students' work, mount the exhibition and even handle refreshments. The whole process begins in May of the academic year before the exhibition, and the committee meets weekly during the school year to plan all the details. Aside from the committee, many students volunteer to help make each year's event possible.

"You can't overestimate the importance of what our students get out of taking ownership of an exhibition of their work," says Bruce Checefsky, director of CIA's Reinberger Gallery. "For some of them, it's a significant step toward seeing themselves not just as art students, but as the professional artists and designers they're going to become. That empowerment has been the beauty of SIE since its inception 71 years ago."

CIA's current SIE Committee includes Bianca Breed (junior Biomedical Art major), Noelle Richard (senior Drawing major), Zach James (senior Game Design major) and James Waite (senior Drawing major). This year's jurors are Cyanide & Happiness creator Shawn Coss, CIA alumnus Adam Holtzinger and Cleveland native Julie Schenkelberg. From more than 230 submissions, the jurors accepted just 70 works. They also met with students in their classrooms and studios.

"Students have the opportunity to receive studio visits with these artists and discuss their work and creative processes," says SIE committee member Bianca Breed. "It is a pretty extensive process to entirely plan and run this exhibition; however, being able to communicate with professional artists and be a part of something so unique is very rewarding as a student. The coming together of students from all majors to plan, run and feature work in the show is a very exciting part of the spring semester."

The 71st Annual Student Independent Exhibition opens with a free, public reception from 6 to 9 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 17, and remains on view until March 19. — Josh Usmani

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