Finals Week as a Visual Studies Student

Sammi Herlich class multiples

Being a Visual Studies student brings on a unique experience here at U of T. There’s a good chance I know almost everyone in my year by name, I get to be taught by practicing artists, take courses with cool titles like “The Body” or “The Constructed Image” and get to live the dream of following my passion: art. 

When I tell people what I study, most don't even realize U of T has a Visual Studies program or what that actually is. My final week of classes may have looked different than students in other programs, so here's what my week looked like...


Check out my final week of classes as a Visual Studies student and stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with more info!🎥🎨 —Sammi

♬ Summer party (20 seconds) - TimTaj

With my current semester being filled with mainly studio courses, as finals and exam season rolled around I wasn't stressing over making flashcards or study notes but with critiques. This is where you present your artwork to your professors and classmates who analyze it and give feedback. The saying “A picture’s worth a thousand words” in some ways captures what our assignments are like. They're almost like working on an essay with research, a concept and thesis, yet all of this is being expressed in a visual production. All the design choices and elements in a work have to be considered to create a concept-based work that expresses through a visual form beyond what one could write with words. 

My week started off with having to finalize the prep for all my final works, including a large-scale installation. I had to have my audio recordings ready to play from speakers and try to iron out any technical difficulties before the day of the presentation.  

Photo of chairs and set for installation
Photo of chairs set up close together in installation

This was the day of my first critique! I was nervous because my project was a performance-based installation with an element of audience participation. It’s such an exhilarating experience getting to see the production and vision from sketchbooks and concept ideation turn into a lived experience for myself and viewers. After a THREE-hour-long critique looking at student work from paintings and drawings to videos, instead of having a late night at Robarts, I spent a late night in the Borden Building finalizing my edits on a Premiere Pro video project. I got to use a greenscreen for this final project which took many hours of editing to layer and key out my footage into my final vision. When my hands felt like they were going to fall off, I finally called it a night and headed home.

Photo of a computer screen with Premiere Pro open showing Sammi and animals

I presented the video assignment — check that off the list! And finished packaging my Artists' Multiples assignment... more on that later...

One of the things that make the U of T HBA Visual Studies program different from fine arts degrees is it’s uniquely multi-disciplinary. I’ve studied art history, critical theory and curation. My Thursday class, VIS320: Critical Curatorial Lab, involved writing an exhibition proposal. This course gave me a new perspective on the role of curating an exhibition. Next time you go to an art exhibit, pay attention to the wall text, how things are installed, the pamphlet, and arrangement of the works; it may give you insight into the layers that go into creating an exhibition.

A special end to the week was my Artists' Multiples course, a class dedicated to looking at artist multiples throughout history. We looked at rare multiples at the AGO, and for our final assignment had to make our work replicable 25 times so that everyone in the class got a copy of our work. This was a highlight of the year. Even the course instructors exchanged work with us. One of my instructors bought a space in the Toronto Star with a chart counting from 1-30, and every student in the class had a different number circled for our edition of the multiple.

Photo of a table with a newspaper, papers and other objects for an artist multiples class project
Photo of Sammi and her multiple

As nerve-racking as this week was, presenting projects to my professors and peers that I put my heart and soul into, it was a rewarding experience that made the late nights and lugging around bags of equipment all the more worth it.

Until next time,

– Sammi