Make It- A College Portfolio Arts & Holiday Guide

[fa icon="calendar"] 12/4/19 3:36 PM / by Sheelah Bearfoot

This holiday season, highlight your leadership, ingenuity, and resourcefulness. Demonstrate your aptitude and dedication, whether or not you plan on majoring in the arts.

collection of various note cards with ribbon bow on white background. each one is shot separatelyExtracurriculars in the Arts and Humanities

Activities under the arts and humanities umbrella usually need to be self-started, given how systematically underfunded these disciplines are. If you have an artistic passion, there are plenty of ways for you to demonstrate your aptitude. The holidays are an excellent time to use your skills in the arts for charity, for three reasons:


1. People are looking for gifts, and tickets to a local play or a handmade, sustainable trinket make touching presents (hint, hint, family and friends). 

2. ‘Tis the season where we are more likely to support good cause organizations. The holiday season and cold weather inspire empathy, gratitude, and generosity. Take advantage of some free time over winter break and high levels of goodwill in your community.

3. Holiday get-togethers and time off mean that people are looking for family-friendly things to do. Attending your community music performance or art exhibit could meet that need.


Ways to Highlight Your Artistic Prowess

  • Crafts. Do you make crafts or jewelry? Consider opening up an Etsy account, or partnering with local maker fairs, consignment or thrift stores. If your art is culturally informed, consider organizing an exhibit at your school, library, or community center to show off your work and the work of other artists. This doubles as an opportunity to educate members in your community about the tradition and history behind the art they see before them.  
  • Workshops. For almost any kind of art hobby, you can even host a workshop to teach others about your techniques. Taking this route allows you to exemplify leadership, ingenuity,  and maturity with your creative passion. Teaching others a process also helps you master that process yourself, and can spark ideas for more efficient methods that you hadn’t considered before.  This is an especially good way to share art made out of previously discarded items, known as up-cycling. Demonstrating to others how to innovative and recycle would-be trash can permanently change their habits to be more sustainable, sparking far-reaching impact. 


  • Auctions. Auctions or silent auctions are another, very versatile tool to use art to help a multitude of causes. Organizing one showcases some entrepreneurial spirit.  Partnering with a charity organization through a silent auction lets you seamlessly turn your art into community service and leadership. Smaller organizations are likely to have less red tape to navigate, so consider partnering with a local community clinic, for example, rather than a nationwide operation. You can ask companies and stores for in-kind donations, meaning they donate an item at their wholesale cost, allowing you to auction the item for its retail value. Companies are often more willing to donate their products or store credit for a cause rather than cash. For example, if you are putting together self-care or hygiene kits for the homeless, or auctioning off a weekend getaway trip,  you could ask your dentist for in-kind donations of toothbrushes and travel size toothpaste tubes rather than asking them to donate money. For a brief overview of some of the rules involved regarding donated items for auctions and tax-deductible perks, see this article.


  • Performance Art. Some community venues are happy to partner with high school students showcasing artistic talents for a good cause. If you have difficulty securing spaces like art galleries, you can always use your living room or school library. To avoid any awkward chats with the IRS, you won’t be able to technically charge admission. What you can do is make a suggested donation amount, and ask patrons for donations with an inviting jar or charming top-hat by the door. For anything spoken-word poetry- related, you can exchange customized poems, chapbooks or holiday cards for a suggested donation. I’ve seen multiple student organizations do this repeatedly with high rates of success.

    It’s impossible to anticipate all scenarios in this article, so you’ll have to do a little bit of research on local rules and ordinances about the guidelines for collecting admissions or making sales. Logistical and event planning are great skills to highlight in college applications as well because they demonstrate initiative, attention to detail and user experience. 
  • Advertising Your Event. As far as advertising, remember that social media is good, but word of mouth is usually better. If you’re partnering with an established organization, see what kind of contacts they have and which outlets have proven effective. Here are a few established charity organizations you may like to support. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a helpful lead. 

Design think and Iterate. Don’t get discouraged if less people show up than anticipated; this is extremely common, even for experienced event-planners. Gather feedback from people who attended about their experience in order to improve upon the next event. Here are some tips from the Stanford D. School on how to collect feedback and iterate on a process or event to continuously improve it. This is relevant for hosting workshops, too. This document goes over some different types of interview styles to help you generate relevant questions for guests who attend your event. It features a cool graphic comic about how to observe users in their natural habitat to gain perspective on needs they may not even be able to verbalize when asked about, or contradictions between what they say and what they do. Inform and deepen your user experience and curation skills. 

Try to establish a tradition of your event continuing annually and train a successor to pick up where you left off to carry on your ongoing legacy. Have fun this holiday season wherever your creative projects may lead!

Empowerly. We’re real people. Give us a call. 

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Topics: College Applications, Extracurriculars, Summer Planning, My Story

Sheelah Bearfoot

Written by Sheelah Bearfoot

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