MFA Programs
November 19, 2004 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for schools with MFA painting and/or printmaking programs that would welcome a student with a BFA in illustration. [more inside]

The "illustration" part is a serious black mark, at least according to people I've spoken with, but I've also heard that different schools have radically different character in terms of student work. Are there any MFA programs that are particularly welcoming to figurative, narrative painting/printmaking? Also -- many people have advised me to wait a few years. While this might be a polite way of telling me I suck, I have noticed that a lot of MFA students do exactly that. Will the admissions officer just roll his eyes at the 22 year old who thought she had enough experience for graduate school?

My reasons for wanting to go immediately: I want to teach public high school, I want to have time to focus completely on personal improvement before I start teaching (this is why I'm not going the MAT route), and I want to do this while I am still young, unattached, and mostly debt-free.
posted by Hypharse to Education (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
NYAA has a special focus on figurative painting in the classical style. They have a printmaking program too.
posted by brownpau at 9:05 PM on November 19, 2004

I can’t speak to painting/printmaking specifically, but I can talk about fine arts a bit. My MFA is in poetry, and all the same initial conditions apply -- liberal arts undergrad degree, the advice to wait a few years and get some life experience. I started my program when I was 21, and though I was the youngest person in my year, I wasn’t the youngest person to come through the department.

While I am a tiny sample size, my experience (and the experience of the many, many MFAs I have known) is that your acceptance depends almost entirely upon the body of work you send out. Your GRE scores don’t matter. Your age doesn't matter. Your recommendations will matter a bit, but it’s really your portfolio that determines if you get in or not. That and the whim of the faculty. The good news with master's programs is that it's generally not an admissions officer determining your fate -- you often get real faculty members looking at the applications.

The biggest piece of feedback I can give you is that it’s unlikely that your MFA program will really teach you craft. While this varies school to school, it’s been my experience that the programs really offer you two things: time to devote to your projects, and opportunities to network.

Best of luck to you.
posted by amery at 1:22 AM on November 20, 2004

I got a BA in Philosophy (minor in Art), spent three years with a start-up Internet technology company (graphic design) and two years in a corporate environment with Fortune 100 clients (also graphic design / creative direction). I have spent the last year and a half in a three year MFA program doing painting, drawing, and limited sculptural projects.

I will second what amery said about admissions officers / faculty. What counts across schools (although it varies school to school) is your portfolio.

Let me try to address the idea of experience... What is extremely useful about spending time after your undergraduate career before embarking on a graduate career is that it exposes you to different "whys". What was invaluable about having five years and five different jobs in creative work was that I was forced to deal with different answers to the questions "Why am I doing this? Why am I making this image?"

The problem with going straight from undergrad to grad is that as an artist you only get a limited answer to the question "why do I make [these] images?" You get the academic answer, which while it varies, mostly revolves around similar themes of complex ideas you have that are encoded into some image for the viewer to "get."

In my experience, what kills some very promising work is the narrowness of that academic / university answer (the one given above) to the questions about making images. I say this as someone who is planning on being a University professor, by the way... so I am not against Universities. I just think it's important for all artists to have their own, very personal, answers to the "why's" of their work, and that is has to be done outside of an academic environment.
posted by Slothrop at 8:56 AM on November 20, 2004

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