The School of Visual Art and Design at USC is full of talented artists, and now the public can view their work. The USC Photo Festival is a two-day event that displays portfolios of upper level students in the Business of Fine Arts and Masters of Fine Arts program in the School of Visual Art and Design. Now in its sixth year, the festival also includes photography-centered events available to the public.
Kathleen Robbins is the associate professor and photography coordinator of the school and the one who’s been overseeing this event for the past six years. She started this festival so students could get their projects out into the public eye and network with other professionals in the field.
“I wanted to give students an opportunity to introduce their work to people outside of the university and to prepare them for the real world once they graduate. It’s good for the students to get feedback on their work,” Robbins said.
The Photo Festival is part two of a thesis portfolio class — first comes the portfolio reviews, a more academic process.
The portfolio reviews will take place Friday at the Columbia Museum of Art. The people reviewing these portfolios are a mix of USC faculty, artists, educators and museum professionals. Some of the reviewers are local professionals and some are coming outside of the state from places like Atlanta, Charlotte and New York.
“This portfolio review is kind of like speed dating,” said Lauren Greenwald, assistant professor of studio art in the School of Visual Art and Design. “With the portfolio review, each reviewer has a table, and we have a schedule, so from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. we have the reviews, and each student has 20 minutes with one reviewer. We have about 25 students who are participating, so it worked out that every student has about nine reviews.”
After the portfolio review, the program shifts to Tapp's Art Center, where the public events are held. All of the featured events offer a new learning experience through the visuals. They overlap, so when you’re finished seeing one piece, you can move to the next thing that grabs your attention.
One of the events is a lecture and panel discussion that focuses on photography in Appalachia. The featured speakers for this event are Roger May, Tom Rankin and Aaron Blum, who are all established photographers who have an interest in Appalachia.
This focus on Appalachia is new to the event.
“In the past we’ve focused on Southern photography but now we wanted to focus on something new,” Robbins said.
After the Appalachia lecture, the public will get a chance to view students' portfolios. Students will set up their portfolios and anyone that’s around will get a chance to look at the pieces and talk to the students.
Chuck Dye who’s in the MFA program has an exhibition called “Amuricana” that features 30 images that focus on working-class America. Dye uses a collection of diptychs, or dual plates connected by a hinge, to show the lifestyle.
The newest edition to the photo festival is the Slideluck Potshow event that mixes it up by combining music, artwork and food to make for an entertaining program. The food is provided by local food vendors in Columbia. The event includes a photo slideshow of emerging and non-professional artists in the community.
For Robbins, the Columbia community plays a large role in the festival.
“This year one of the things that’s really special is that we wanted to expand the festival more to the community. We want to have that interaction between students, professionals and the general public,” Robbins said.