Online Art Degree
March 1, 2010 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Help me find an online master's degree in art.

Here's the background: I am a computer programmer, and I have an MBA. I have always been interested in art, but I have no real experience (other than light Photoshop work). I'm hoping to find a Master's of Art degree for the non-designer. I work full-time so online (distance learning) is a must. Any ideas?
posted by gocubbies to Education (7 answers total)
Going to need more help than that. MFAs come in any number of varieties. Creative writing? Illustration? Poetry? Those you can probably do online, or at least with some kind of low residency option.

But most of the visual arts are going to require studio instruction, so online classes aren't really doable. And even the non-studio subjects benefit greatly from being part of a community of artists.

Also, these things tend to be ridiculously expensive--tens of thousands of dollars a year, sometimes for two or three years--and there's precious little funding, especially for online varietals. So you're going to pay through the nose, and do it on your own.

I don't think a degree program is really what you're looking for given your abject lack of specifics. Most people who would be well-served by a degree are more communicative about 1) what the degree entails and 2) why it will benefit them. Buy yourself some art and travel books and spend more time at museums. Or if you're serious about making art yourself, take some local classes.
posted by valkyryn at 6:04 PM on March 1, 2010

MFA programs grant admission on the strength of a portfolio, unless you mean Art History. But yeah, this makes no sense.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:41 PM on March 1, 2010

To back up valkyryn's "community of artists" point:

I went to art school for my BFA (Photography). The very best, most very important classes for me were the 6 hour long group crit classes. It was like 6 hours of really intense group therapy every week, and it completely changed and influenced most of our lives and all of our work. I have a friend from that class that recently completed her MFA, and she said that 6 hour long class? NOTHING compared to grad school classes, and even though she had less classes each semester, it took up so much of her time. (I know this sounds nuts, but that kind of made me want to go to grad school :) I can't even begin to imagine how you'd be able to duplicate anything like that online, and I say this as someone who has been fairly heavily involved in online communities for years.

I know you're thinking "MFA" right now, but (again, to back up valkyryn) why not take some local classes? When I was in my early 20s and didn't know what I wanted to do, I started taking art classes at my local CC (I had a bunch of electives open to get my Associates, so I filled it up with art), and that's where I learned to draw/paint/work in the darkroom/etc. (And yes, I still keep in touch with a few people from there. Us artists are a social bunch.)
posted by AlisonM at 6:42 PM on March 1, 2010

I really can't offer much here except to echo AlisonM's thoughts that the crits are the most useful portion of any fine arts program - something that would be absent (as far as I can tell) from an online degree. But I'd also like to point out that there seems to be an assumption (possibly correct) that the OP is looking for an MFA. There are plenty of MA degrees out there which are less intensive and are perhaps doable online.... I guess.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:39 PM on March 1, 2010

I will concur, art school really isn't something you can do online, at least, not optimally. You need direct contact with teachers and other students, that is how you develop. I started my BFA in the mid 1970s and then dropped out halfway through, I only came back in 1990 and finished my degree. I learned what I had missed out on as a young, foolish student, something I was able to appreciate more as an adult: being part of a school. There is a reason why they call different aesthetic groups "schools" of art, even though they might not really be organized around a real academic program.
I remember, before I dropped out, I wondered what was the point of art school, and why I was working so hard and getting slammed in critiques all the time, and why I was frustrated with my work and my sense of lack of development. Then I found a very interesting book, I wish I could remember it so I could look it up again, but it's been 30+ years and not much chance of that. But anyway, it had an academic paper, a very serious study of art students and professors, and attempted to discern how "art" (whatever that was) was transmitted to students by the professors and the art school environment. I was astonished at the cynical conclusion, that there were very few things that all art schools had in common; it inculcated in their students how to dress like an artist, how to talk like an artist, and how to behave like an artist. Some people assumed that this made them an artist. And those are, of course, the poseurs. What the paper really meant was, the transmission of artistic knowledge was so nebulous, they could not define it clearly, each schools methods and practices were so radically different. But somehow, perhaps by osmosis, the central concepts of the school were transmitted, and often more as a social scene than academic teaching.
That all being said, I only returned to art school because I wanted to study under one specific teacher whose work I admired. And of course, she instantly hated me and snubbed me completely. But I did find another mentor, and she took me under her wing, and I developed my painting , as well as my aesthetic sensibilities, more thoroughly in 2 years than I had in the previous 20, on my own.
Now even today, I seem to work best when I'm in a group of artists, we bounce our ideas off each other, and respond to each other's works with our own works and ideas. And that is really the one thing that makes you an artist. An artist is someone whose works enter into a dialogue with other artists and the art world as a whole. You get your first taste of that in art school, with the students, teachers, and your mentors. But now I am all alone, my mentor died a tragic early death just before she hit the peak of her career, I know no other local artists, and my work is a voice in the wilderness. I miss art school.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:52 PM on March 1, 2010

I'm not sure whether you realize that an MFA is a terminal degree, not something you pick up after having a casual interest.

What exactly do you want to do with this degree?
posted by cmoj at 10:53 PM on March 1, 2010

Seconding what Valkryn said.

There is a low residency MFA in fine art here (I know because I teach on it) but I really think you're going to need to think about something else beforehand to get up to speed. In part because, as cmoj points out, an MFA is a terminal degree, and not exactly a walk in the park in a 'normal' (ha) art school.

A low residency programme combined with distance/online mentoring (which is the model of the course above) means that you need to be extremely motivated and self reliant to complete the course, and so you really do need to have some 'momentum' behind your creative practice in the first place, i.e. you need to have some sense of what you are about as an artist and what you're interested in. I have seen what happens to students when this is not the case.

If you have that already, then low residency courses can be a boon, given that they allow you to accomodate full time employment alongside them, given suficient diligence, but if you're just looking to put a toe in the water and aren't really sure what your area of creative interest is yet, then I would steer well clear until you do. Anything else would be a very expensive mistake (as Valkryn points out) and probably a waste of your time.
posted by Chairboy at 2:59 AM on March 2, 2010

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