SculptureX Symposium #2: The State of the MFA
|Roundtables Notes 10.15.2011|
|Organizers||Caitlyn MacDonald, Edinboro University of PA ‘12
Angie Seykora, Edinboro University of PA ‘13
|Moderators & Notetakers||Michael Borowski, University of Michigan ’11
Crystal Brown, Ohio University ’12
Evan Dawson, Ohio State University ’12
Reed Esslinger, University of Michigan ’12
Ron Hollingshead, West Virginia University, ‘11
Meghan Reynard, University of Michigan ’12
Grad School debt: What do you get for your money?
Pursuing an MFA degree will likely result in some debt. Considering this, one must decide how much debt they are willing to take on throughout the 2 or 3 years in a graduate program and the length of time and interest it will take to pay it off. Most participants agreed it is best to try to select a school offering financial assistance including Graduate Assistantships, Teaching Assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships. Though top ranked programs are more costly, students may have more opportunities to build lifetime connections with high-achieving peers, faculty, visiting artists, critics and curators. Renowned artists who teach at the top programs must maintain their art practices and have less time to interact with students. Lower profile institutions typically have more frequent faculty-student interaction and these programs can create a close-knit community. Ultimately, it is up to the individual and his or her work ethic, personal skills, and body of artwork to determine what they get out of an MFA program instead of price determining the value of an MFA program.
What are the Characteristics of the ideal MFA program?
- Financial assistance allowing students to focus on studio work without stressing about money
- A balance between research/theory/history/studio practices allowing students to put their work into a conceptual context
- Easy access to materials, adequate tools/facilities/space
- Easy access to exhibition opportunities
- Easy access to (or located within) a metropolitan area with museums, art openings, galleries, and rich cultural offerings which can be a source of inspiration; (it was also noted that living in a small town or city provides a lower cost of living, lower expenses, and fewer distractions from the studio)
- Faculty who are willing to give feedback and who are available for private discussions; (it was noted thatafter graduating it becomes very difficult to receive critical feedback.)
Should professional practices be integrated into grad school? If so, how?
What are some tips and strategies for surviving graduate school?
Professional practices should always be integrated into graduate school via a professional practices course, a teaching assistantship or a graduate research assistantship. Professional practices courses should include: writing grants, resumes, handling taxes, critically evaluating your work and the work of others, networking strategies and mock interviews. Developing a mature studio practice in grad school is the first step in solidifying a long lasting professional practice. It is important to define what you want and identify the steps to achieve your goal. All of these skills benefit an artist whether or not he or she seeks a teaching position. Teaching assistantships provide graduate students with experience, a line on the resume, references and student work to use in applying for positions. A drawback to teaching while in graduate school is that teaching is time-consuming and will impede on studio time.