How fine-arts students can get experience at MCAD

Campus has been buzzing with the 14th annual art sale, which starts tonight and runs through Saturday.

It's apparently the largest campus art sale in the nation, from what officials say, and a big reason why non-artists know about MCAD in the Twin Cities.

Today the halls are decked out with 9,000 prints, paintings and other works (sculptures and furniture included), but are covered with white sheets until they're revealed at the grand opening tonight.

Each student may display 25 pieces at a time at the event, but may replace those they sell. Artists who've graduated within the past five years may also show their work, and some can generate thousands of dollars just this one weekend.

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Money and glitz aside, the show is a learning experience.

Lars Mason, MDAD's director of academic services, says he helped found the sale as a way to connect fine-arts students with customers and the art world in general. (Graphic designers and other commercially oriented students already had internships and other ways to soak up the business side, it seems.)

It teaches students the business side of art. They also get experience making connections with customers, gallery owners and the art network in general.

And perhaps most importantly, it lets them make their mistakes now -- instead of in their career, when the stakes are higher.

Mason tells me:

"They might mislabel a painting. Or not attach the label well enough, so it ends up falling off. They might price their work too high. Those mistakes are the most common. But this is a really good way to learn. They have a safety net. They can experiment.  No gallery owner is going to kick them out because they did something silly."

Students can't use it as an excuse to slack, though. He says:

"We discourage them from bringing in their homework (projects) to sell. The public is fickle, but it's not stupid. It knows what homework looks like."