Here is my MFA story. It is about a ceramics department, but you will get the idea. I took several courses at the local University Ceramics Dept. I had already had some experience with throwing pots and was not new at it. I consider myself a functional potter, not an artist. I like to make beautiful, functional stuff. While I was there one day I went into the Masters level studio to talk to one of the students about a particular tool. While there I was dimly aware someone had made a number of large cylinders with rounded tops, about two feet in diameter, I didn’t think about them any more. Then the next semester I saw an “installation” on the lawn outside the University theater. It was about ten of these cylinders, some shorter, some taller, and all were red clay glazed just on the top, rounded part with a white gloss glaze. Around the top of the pieces the “artist” had written memories, like “when I was nine my Dad took me kite flying in a field and the wind was blowing through my hair,” and “when I was twenty I had my first love affair…it was over too soon and he just left without telling me anything.” I thought, “so this is Art?” The next semester I met a grad assistant who helped out in my class. He was quite competent in throwing and mixing clay and offering suggestions, but his thesis work was these three times life size busts of himself in realistic style. They weren’t bad as representationall pieces, but the idea was that he’d make them and then half destroy them by using a pressure washer on them. Some had half the face abraded away and the rest partially destroyed. Some had some of the bust untouched and half gone. He must have used various nozzles and pressures and times. And again I thought, “so this is Art?” The Art School students (various media) exhibit their work in the building atrium, publicly. Some is technically good and some is witty, but a lot is just an excercise in “how can I do something way out and original?” the best exhibit I saw was done by architecture students who had an Airstream trailer in the atrium. The professor made them strip everything out of it and polish the steel again and then design and build a new interior for it. Something new that went with the Airstream lines. I thought it was wonderful. Like retro jewelry on a grand scale!
So that’s my impression of MFA, you can draw your own conclusions. The thing is, if you go through the University library, you can find old craft books from the 1900’s to 1930’s and many were written by University professors who taught crafts like copperwork and forging and jewelry skills. My local University no longer has a jewelry program and I suspect that is true most places. Heikki Sepa, the anaclastic raising guy, was a professor at University of Helsinki and I believe he was a visiting professor in the US. Now there was a real silversmith who also pushed the boundaries of form.
@gerry lewy…Gerry, you should get an honorary doctorate (the best kind) in philanthropy, jewelry craftsmanship, integrity and grit awarded by all of us. You are the best!