Thesis Year

Kaitlyn Nelson '17

Kaitlyn Nelson '17 at work on her thesis project

Your senior year is an exciting time of transition from student to working artist or designer. Along the way, you gather the tools you need to be ready to go on the day after graduation.

The focus of your thesis year is conceiving a Thesis Project of your own design and producing it with the support of faculty, including a mentor who works with you one-on-one, and your peers. It represents an opportunity for students to devote an entire semester to a body of work. This culminates with you installing your thesis work and making a presentation before a panel of professional artists and/or designers during Focus Week. Throughout this process you gain a deeper understanding of who you are as an artist while creating lasting bonds with faculty and peers.

Focus Week

During Focus Week, classes are suspended and the whole PNCA community—students, faculty, and staff—comes together to support seniors as they present their thesis projects. In between thesis presentations, the whole school gathers in the Commons for a communal lunch followed by special programs offered by faculty members including performances and talks.

"During their senior year, students develop a creative project that not only results in a solid body of work, but also the skills and understanding to sustain their creative practice after graduation."  —Linda Kliewer, Director of BFA Thesis Program

BFA Thesis Exhibition

As a conclusion to the thesis experience, all PNCA seniors present their work in the BFA Thesis Exhibition. The show opens on the day of graduation and continues for a month. It features a variety of activities and opportunities that give students exposure to the arts community at large. During this time, the College hosts an artists’ reception to introduce graduates to Portland’s art and design professionals. This special reception affords students the opportunity to discuss their work with collectors, curators, and gallery owners who are interested in emerging talent.

Linda Kliewer

Linda Kliewer, Director of BFA Thesis Program

BFA University of Virginia (Studio Art/ Photography)


As a queer artist, Linda has spent much of her life pushing against the current of misinformation to make herself and others visible. Sharing her own truths through images.

Linda is an award-winning queer filmmaker and photographer who has been making film, video and still images for over 30 years. Her passions are social documentary and teaching. Her art centers on self-portraiture, social comment and most recently swimming pools.

The body of her documentary photography is one of the largest photographic collections of Portland’s queer community. Kliewer’s work is part of the Visual Chronicle of Portland, has been screened in the Sundance Film Festival, NW Film and Video Festival, the Portland Documentary and Experimental Film Festival, and has been published, exhibited and screened nationally and internationally (Portland, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Paris, and Belgrade, Serbia).