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Reflective Essay Component of the Senior Thesis Exhibition

Guidelines for Seniors

The capstone experience for the studio art major is the Senior Thesis Exhibition (STE). For the exhibition each senior major selects and presents a body of work representing the culmination of study in the studio arts. Effective with the class of 2012, the department has added a writing requirement to the STE and thus to the major: a short essay.

The process of formulating the essay will encourage each student to reflect upon their experiences and growth as a studio art major and provide a means for them to think seriously and communicate effectively about their own artwork as they prepare for their exhibition. The essay will be used, in coordination with the exhibition of work, as a tool for evaluating the student’s capstone experience.

Content. Artists’ writings cover a wide range of styles and intents including a cryptic stream of consciousness, a politically charged manifesto, a delicate poem, a humble statement of intent or a scholarly essay.  In art, writing may be highly structured–as in a theoretical paper–or much more informal. Members of the art department agree that the reflective essay is seen as a culmination of the writing experience in the major and may take many forms. Throughout the studio art major students may write statements of intent, critical evaluations, analytical papers, response papers, journals and/or descriptive or expressive essays.  Because there is no standard convention of writing within the arts, students may explore a broad variety of writing in context to their work, including, but not limited to the following examples:

An artist statement explains, justifies, and contextualizes an artist’s work.  Artists often maintain and revise these statements throughout their career and may be required to submit the statement to apply for graduate school, residencies, exhibitions, or grants.  An artist statement is not a biography but might include biographical information pertinent to the concept/process of the work.

A self-reflective essay critically analyzes the experiences of why and how:
a.    the student’s choice of classes or faculty has influenced or impacted their artwork.
b.    the student’s ideas may have changed over the course of four years due
to exposure to new tools, mediums or ideas.
c.    the influence of art historical perspectives, information and ideas are manifested in the student’s work.

A process essay may focus on the tools, processes and/or techniques a student has chosen and the impact those choices have had on the student’s work.

It is expected that students will write papers that are well-crafted, concise, clear, consistent in style and grammatically correct. The Writing Center is available to students for help with these issues and students are encouraged to take advantage of this service.

Length. The essay should be 100 to 1000 words on one or two sheets of 8.5 x 11 inch paper, typed, and in 12 pt. legible type. This format requires that you be concise with your thoughts and words.  (for example, this document is approx. 1200 words.)

Timeline. During the first senior meeting in the FALL the faculty will present and discuss the reflective essay component of the capstone experience. Within the two weeks following the meeting all senior art majors must confer with a potential faculty advisor for the essay.  Essay Advisor Forms will be available at the meeting and must be returned to the art office with the faculty member’s signature (by the date specified at the meeting). Faculty are advised to work with no more than five seniors each year. The faculty member’s primary role is to help students with content and effectiveness. Meetings between advisors and students will be dictated by individual progress and requirements. The department recommends that outlines are completed by the end of the fall semester and first drafts are completed by February 27.  A final draft is due to the faculty advisor for assessment by April 27. Students should make use of the Writing Center for help with structure and grammar. Final essays are due to the art department office on the same day that information for labels is due. (this date will be announced at a senior seminar meeting and posted on the website).

Grading. A single grade of pass/fail will be assigned for both the essay and the exhibition since the STE is a noncredit bearing requirement for graduation. Essays will be read and evaluated by the faculty advisor. Any essay considered failing would be discussed with the student in time to rework and improve it. If a student is unsuccessful, the advisor will notify the department Chair by May 1. All pass/fail essay grades will be documented during the grading of the Senior Thesis Exhibition.  Some essays may be discussed at the grading of the STE.

START YOUR ESSAY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  As you make your work take notes, write outlines, do research, keep a journal.  Allow yourself time to develop, alter and correct your writing as your work changes and progresses.  Your Faculty Essay Advisor will advise on content.  Mechanical/structural problems should be discussed with the Writing Center.

Consider the following rubric as you work:

FOCUS, PURPOSE, THESIS - The essay should contain:

A problematic essay might be confusing in its major ideas, lack insight, clarity or originality.  Ideas may be general, not explored to full potential or predictable.  There may be a simplistic view of the topic, be difficult to understand and lack effort or comprehension.

STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION of the essay should:

A problematic essay might have passages that are unclear or lacking insight.  There might be too much or too little information.  The structure may wander, jump around or be non-existent.

SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT of the essay should:

A problematic essay might only refer to sources common to studio arts and use weak or too few examples. Documentation of ideas and quotations may be lacking or only occasional.  There may be no references or examples to support opinions and ideas.

MECHANICS AND PRESENTATION of the essay should:

A problematic essay might use limited and inappropriate vocabulary.  
There may be errors in grammar, spelling or punctuation.  There may be run-on sentences.  

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