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What do you want from an MFA program?


#1

Hi all,

we at Albert College of Art and Design (ACAD.ab.ca) are planning an
MFA program in Craft. While I have a vision of how that would work
and what I would want from a program my colleagues on the Graduate
Program working group and the institution have some different views.
We are moving towards a synthesis position, that looks like an MFA in
Craft, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary activity and theory,
though I think we will be able to retain the ability to focus (ie to
concentrate, say, in ceramics, or metal).

So here are some questions that your imput would be appreciated for.

What is the difference between a BFA and MFA?

What would you want to experience in a Craft MFA?

If you have an MFA, what would have improved your experience and
quality?

Any other comments would be appreciated. While I think that group
discussion is really useful here, if you want to contact me off-list
at brainnetATtelus.net please do.

thankyou.
Charles


#2

Hi,

Here are some basic answers

What is the difference between a BFA and MFA? 

BFA - Bachelors degree in Fine Art
MFA - Masters degree in Fine Art

What would you want to experience in a Craft MFA? 

It would have to be more focused that this. Like Folk Art or Jewelry

If you have an MFA, what would have improved your experience and
quality? 

No - I learned from going to different company schools, like DeBeers.
Also find a retired artesian, they are a wealth of knowledge and they
will teach you a lot.

Jerry


#3

A Craft MFA program needs a strong focus on decorative arts history.

My art history requirements from my MFA studies focused on modern
arts and had nothing to do with the decorative arts/crafts.

That’s a problem for me working as a professional artist. A serious
education in decorative arts history would help me now as I deal with
design professionals for my forged steel and bronze work.

Kirsten
http://kaskiles.com


#4

Hello Charles,

My responses are a reiteration of general academic attitudes, I
fear. But you asked.

What is the difference between a BFA and MFA? 

The Bachelor level should be familiar with the broad types of
artistic
expression within a general area such as music, drama, or handwork.
The Masters’ level is individually designed to focus on a specific
area within that general area, such as an instrument or composition
or sculpture.

What would you want to experience in a Craft MFA? 

Since it should be individually tailored, I think it should allow a
grad student to explore at least two areas in handwork. May I add
that if the student has not already taken a course in basic business
practices and bookkeeping, this it the time to do it!

If you have an MFA, what would have improved your experience and
quality? 

N/A; my advanced degree is in a completely different field. However,
any advanced degree does prepare a person to be a self-directed
learner and to know how to research!

Any other comments would be appreciated. 

I feel strongly that completing a graduate degree should better equip
one to find success in whatever way s/he pursues employment. Wherever
you envision these MFA grads finding work, ask those
people/businesses what experiences and coursework would better
prepare a candidate to be hired. If the Craft MFA graduate is most
likely to pursue self-employment, then this forum should provide
valuable input. In that case, I again put in a plug for not only
basic business coursework, but also general marketing! Both would
have been useful to me - I’m lucky that my daughter with a business
degree has given me some good advice.

Interesting thread - I’m curious to see the responses,
Judy in Kansas


#5

Charles,

What is the difference between a BFA and MFA? 

BFA assumes that you are a dry sponge, willing and able to soak up a
wide variety of techniques, insights, and “stuff”…
that you are not bringing anything to the table, necessarily, other
than “raw” talent or an inclination. The goal of the program is a
"basically trained" artist with broad-brush experience in a lot of
different things and a little bit of depth in one or two.

MFA assumes that you have a set of knowledge, experience and
techniques on which to build toward your own goals. Rather than being
a wide open sponge, you’re more like a crevice tool on a vacuum
cleaner - pulling in as much as possible from a much more narrow
direction and focus. The goal of the program is to develop mastery in
a discipline, resulting in a “master-piece”

What would you want to experience in a Craft MFA? 

To develop mastery in any craft, I strongly believe you need
challenging assignments that build both knowledge and confidence.
That includes a rich collection of “guest instructors” with deep
expertise in specific areas who can supplement the school’s own
instructors. It also includes developing relationships with
businesses in the field to place students in externships and research
internships that have “meat” to them (i.e., that aren’t “spent the
summer filing paperwork” opportunities, but that have the students
take on real responsibilities and produce actual work in the business
environment).

In addition to the mastery of the craft medium of interest (which is
absolutely critical), the MFA also needs a strong focus on the
business end of craft… how to survive and thrive as an artist,
gallery owner, curator, or whatever. That includes marketing,
accounting, law, effective speaking, business
writing/communications… possibly some web design and photography,
even.

The other thing that is missing from every program I’ve seen so far
is a recognition and structure that supports WORKING ADULTS. The main
reason I don’t have an MFA is that my life doesn’t allow for the
flexibility to drop everything, stop working for 2 years, and go
full-time. A combination of distance work and evening/weekend options
(like executive MBA programs) would make all the difference.

Hope this helps!

Karen Goeller
No Limitations Designs
Hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry


#6
My art history requirements from my MFA studies focused on modern
arts and had nothing to do with the decorative arts/crafts. That's
a problem for me working as a professional artist. A serious
education in decorative arts history would help me now as I deal
with design professionals for my forged steel and bronze work. 

And none of the colleges I attended ever had a decorative arts
history class! Two had one on paper but never, ever ran them.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#7
The other thing that is missing from every program I've seen so
far is a recognition and structure that supports WORKING ADULTS. The
main reason I don't have an MFA is that my life doesn't allow for
the 

The low residency program at Vermont College does this. You work
locally with a mentor and go to the college twice a year, I think it
is.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#8

For some reason, the Academic community hasn’t gotten into its
collective heads that artists need to eat, and that necessitates
their working at remunerative jobs while learning how to be
proficient artists. The MFA is lovely if you want to teach art, do
museum work or give lectures. Looks very good on your curriculum
vitae. If you want to make a living at jewelry, learn at a jewelry
school. Develop bench skills. Work in the field. Study design either
on the job or in a recognized school. Develop your business skills.

All the degrees in the world won’t help you if you have little
talent or do mediocre work. On the other hand, you can get farther
faster by taking the hands-on track. Then, when you’ve made enough to
be comfortable, you can kick back and do the degree thing if you want
to.

These days, before you think about a career, you have to ask
yourself: Will it make me happy? Will it put food on the table? Will
it pay the rent? (or the mortgage) Will I get out of it what I put
into it?

I have two children with BFA degrees. One also has an MFA Neither
one uses the degrees to earn a living

Dee


#9

i am very happy to see someone mention busniness coursework in the
same sentence as an art degree on this forum, it should be required
by the government that art students have a business minor in that
MFA. Uncontionable would be a proper description of what art degrees
cost in relation to the available work after graduation for most
young folks. i know a young woman who recently graduated from
Columbus College of Art & Design ( CCAD ) here in Columbus Ohio, as a
jewelry major.now she has the illustrious position of porter at a
local honda dealership because, although she has knowlege up the
wazzooo and not to mention a boatload of artistic intellect and
inteligence (also a prodigy), she recieved no training in what is
mostly marketable in the jewelry business here locally in Columbus
Ohio,and most other places in the USA, repairing expensive but flimsy
imported jewely.

CAVEAT EMPTOR ( sp? ) does apply to your education as well as the
high milage used car you will be driving because of those high
dollar college loan payments you are going to be expected to pay
back

best regards goo


#10

Hello Goo;

i am very happy to see someone mention busniness coursework in the
same sentence as an art degree on this forum. 

Once upon a time, I got all excited about these new-fangled
computers and this thing called the internet. I was in grad school,
it was 1989. Well, I kept bugging people about it, telling them how
big it was going to be. (back then, the Internet was just a black
screen, and you typed in commands in Unix, and the connections were
1200 bits per second… take a half a day to get a typical web page
to load, not exaggerating). Well, I was shunned by the art
department. In fact, they would practically cross the street to avoid
me.

On to graduation. It was 1993, and I got real pushy about my new
idea that art students should take some business courses like book
keeping. I went so far as to put those ideas into my teaching
philosophy. Well, I didn’t get a lot of offers for teaching
positions, even though my curicculum vitae was pretty impressive.

Moral of the story… all things in good time, but a prophet is
always despised in his own time.

David L. Huffman


#11

hi david

1993, and I got real pushy about my new idea that art students
should take some business courses like book keeping. I went so far
as to put those ideas into my teaching philosophy. Well, I didn't
get a lot of offers for teaching positions, even though my
curicculum vitae was pretty impressive. 

well, you know what they say you can send an art student to college
but you cant make them think! i know that this previous sentence is
going to infuriate, but alot of young folks could be pursuing art as
a means of escaping the doldrums of right brain activities, such as
math and science.

perhaps the administrators and college boards know thier illustrious
institution will sell fewer sheepskins & attract less people if the
kids know they are going to have to pursue a well rounded curriculum

goo


#12

Goo:

I can’t speak for all art programs, but most of the good ones have
what they call ‘foundation year’.

The theoretical idea is to make sure all the art majors have a solid
grounding in the foundations of 2D & 3D design, as well as art
history and basic written english. That’s the theory. The real point
is to weed out the kids who think art’s an easy ride. I remember
showing up to a mass assembly of all the freshmen art- majors and
having a couple of the art-history professors do the classic ‘look at
the people on either side of you…’ speech. The stated goal was a
33% flunk or transfer rate for freshman year. They met it. They
whittled the class down to much less than half by four years. Not all
of these folks flunked out, many transfered to easier majors. (This
was Syracuse’s BFA program in 88-92) I don’t think I went to bed
before 2AM any night that year, and I remember threatening to choke
the next PoliSci major who complained about how much work they were
doing…on the way to bed at midnight…

No, the good programs aren’t easy, and some of them make no bones
about it.

(SU’s program seemed to delight in making the foundation year
harder, just because they could.)

The art majors who won’t think don’t last long.

Cheers-
Brian Meek, BFA, MFA.


#13

Hi Goo;

well, you know what they say you can send an art student to
college but you cant make them think! 

The students were less a problem than the faculty. I wrote a small
brochure while in grad school, about 10 double spaced pages or so. It
listed the locations of all the computers on campus that allowed the
general student body access. I listed the times these facilities were
open. I listed the software on these machines and what could be done
with it. I told them to stop printing their term papers with their
lousy typewriters and use the word processors with spell check and
the laser printers. I told them how to apply for Internet access,
what this was useful for (email, downloading programs and images,
albiet uuencoded). The art department humored me but filed the paper
in a drawer somewhere. A few art students wanted copies, most just
thought I was weird. I took a copy to the computing department and
they published it and distributed it as the how to manual for campus
computing. But now, Temple University has an extensive CAD program
in their metals department, as do other colleges, and the usefulness
of computers and the Internet is taken for granted. Nobody would want
to be without them.

The fact is, the average college art department is NOT interested in
preparing students for careers other than teaching at the college
level. The private institutions will do that because they see it will
bring enrollment. Students won’t get this stuff until they demand it
of their colleges. And students don’t yet realize that colleges will
definitely respond to these kinds of demands, if there are enough
students making noise about it.

I don’t try to be ahead of the curve, I just find myself there as a
result of my tendency to lose myself in investigative obsessions and
this darn right-brain tendecy to metanoia. My biggest problem is that
I don’t have any good way to tell people bad news, so I’ve taken to
keeping my “predictions” to myself. But I do hint at some of it in
Jewelry In Fashion Trends magazine … but I make it a point to put a
hopeful face on things.

David L. Huffman


#14
The real point is to weed out the kids who think art's an easy
ride. 

That is a really good point. To be professional decorative artist
requires more education than almost anything else. The problem is
that
too many simply spend their inheritance by pursuing art career, and
that creates the impression or easy ride.

Leonid Surpin.