Joint MFA/Ph.D. in studio art and art history
August 1, 2011 10:35 PM   Subscribe

Do any schools offer a joint MFA/Ph.D. in studio art/art history?

A friend of mine is looking at graduate schools and would like to find a program where she can work on her MFA in studio art and Ph.D. in art history simultaneously. Cornell offers a program exactly like this, but it's in creative writing. Do other programs like this exist? Or would she be better off at a place where she can create her own program (and does that exist)? She's interested in both studio and scholarly approaches to art, so she's looking for a place that combines the two. I think she'd like to be able to teach both, as well.
posted by skilar to Education (3 answers total)
I don't know if studying in Canada is an option, but there's York University
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:29 PM on August 1, 2011

Has your friend talked to people at Cornell? I got my doctorate there and found that they were very open to people creating their own programs.

The other place that looks interesting is the U of New Mexico.
posted by mareli at 4:30 AM on August 2, 2011

I imagine many other Mefites will chime in, but generally speaking, both the idea of creating one's own program and the idea of getting two different degrees are somewhat incompatible with the idea of teaching either subject or both.

A bit of background on me - I have an MFA in "Studio Art and Design." Our program was open and interdisciplinary in that the grads all worked in diverse media, usually combining two or more media (I worked in painting and also digital media). Still, there was a connection in that all of these combinations worked off the traditional visual arts definitions, such as drawing, painting, computer art, graphic design, sculpture, ceramics, etc. I have taught, full-time, at two different universities. I am now tenure-track at UNC-Charlotte, where I teach graphic design.

Now, here's the important part : I could not just start teaching a painting class at UNCC. I have the background, knowledge and experience in painting to do it, but the department would want to know why I was not serving the needs they hired me for. Further, they would be worried that I was not going to complete a sufficiently rigorous program of research in graphic design, if I started displaying a strong interest in painting. For better or worse, the culture of academia has been and continues to be one of specialization and focus on a particular field. You can look at it as paying one's dues, but ultimately you have to prove to a department that you have a passion for subject x and you can carry through that passion for five or six years to get to tenure.

Now, that being said, I am married to someone who completed considerable coursework toward a MA in Art History before switching to an MFA in Ceramics. While she has also taught in full-time tenure-track positions, she has at times been hired to teach part-time Art History as well. Typically, she was hired as an adjunct to teach special topics Art History courses, such as non-Western art, which matches up nicely with the history of Ceramics. It may be possible to have some background in Art History and a studio field, and use both backgrounds, but you would pretty much be guaranteeing that you will be offered positions in small departments, such as liberal arts schools.* And again, I would not suggest a full PhD in Art History just to have either a scholarly background or the ability to teach part-time.

I do not know anyone who has done the inverse of what I have described, which would be a PhD in Art History, with the shorter degree (the MA) in Studio Art. I do know people who teach Studio Art with an MA, but they only teach part-time. Partly, I highly doubt a PhD program is going to be interested in a student who wants a PhD, plus another degree. You can find many examples of questions here on AskMe wherein people ask about getting a PhD and another degree and are told that the program won't want to use a competitive spot on such a person. Again, for better or worse, that's the way academia works.

Good luck to your friend!

* - I did my undergraduate work at a liberal arts school, so I have nothing against them.
posted by Slothrop at 5:38 AM on August 2, 2011

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