/ Art and Art History Department

Distinguished Artist Award

The Distinguished Artist Award (DAA) is awarded to students with strong academic records and outstanding creative abilities in the visual arts.

The DAA is granted to incoming first-year students. It provides eligible students with $3,000 each year towards their college costs and is renewable for up to four years.

The deadline for submitting a visual arts portfolio is February 16, 2025, at 11:59 p.m. The application will become available in the fall.


To apply for a DAA in Visual Arts, submit:

When we receive your portfolio, you will receive an automated email response. If you do not receive an email, we have not received your portfolio. Please contact Nicole Wetzel via email or at 616.395.7500.

Decisions will be announced by the Admissions office and the Department of Art & Art History mid-March.

Portfolio information

A portfolio submission is required in order to be considered for a DAA scholarship. Submit 15 individual digital images (jpeg) via the application. Make sure each file is between 100 KB and 1 MB, and include the title of the piece in the file name. Each image will need medium, year, and size details, as well as a brief statement about the piece. Applicants should only select artwork from their last two years of high school. In addition to the artwork portfolio, applicants will submit an artist statement.

You can schedule an appointment with a studio professor to discuss your portfolio by contacting the Department of Art & Art History via email or at 616.395.7500, or the Admissions office via email or at 800.968.7850 or 616.395.7850.

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio of artwork should be a collection of your best and most recent work. It is a crucial part of your application. The portfolio helps the school evaluate your achievements and potential, and represents your view of yourself and your work.

Many different portfolios are necessary during your career as an artist, including for:

  • Graduate school
  • Exhibits
  • Galleries
  • Buyers
  • Employers

The preparation of each portfolio varies according to its purpose. The admissions portfolio required for application to most professional fine art and design schools should include 10–20 pieces in a variety of media. Fewer pieces may not allow an accurate assessment of your potential. The college will be interested in your drawing ability and use of color in two-dimensional and three-dimensional work.

We can give you suggestions and technical assistance, but there is no exact formula for preparing the “right” portfolio. Art teachers can help you with the selection and photography of your work, but you should make the final decisions on what best represents you.

Photographing your artwork

To begin photographing your artwork for a portfolio, you'll need a few simple things: a camera or smartphone, a plain white or grey background, and maybe a tripod if you have one. Set up your work in a space with even lighting to avoid any harsh glare. This could be outdoors on a cloudy day or in a shaded area, or indoors with two lamps set at 45º angles to your work (one lamp on either side of you). Ideally, use natural or white light to avoid tinting your artwork.

For 2D work:

  • hang your artwork on a wall or lay it out on a clean surface
  • center the camera on your artwork and take the photo straight-on to avoid distortion
  • crop the photo to the edges of your artwork

For 3D work:

  • set up your artwork in a space with plain walls, or use a large sheet of paper to create an infinity curve backdrop
  • take the photo straight-on or from a slight angle to capture a natural viewpoint of the work
  • crop out any unnecessary empty background space

Tips on photographing your artwork from the University of Michigan 

Renewal Criteria

If you receive a DAA award, it will be renewed every year if you maintain a minimum 2.6 GPA. DAA recipients are required to declare either a minor or a major in Studio Art,
Art History, or Visual Arts Education (including the Community Arts Pedagogy minor). Please see the catalog for full program descriptions.