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current mfa programs- a theory-longish

updated wed 6 aug 03


Donn Buchfinck on tue 5 aug 03

Rating the current MFA programs??
To get an MFA or not to get an MFA?
that is the question.
It is a hard thing to consider.
How best to deal with going to school.
To begin with I would not recomend going to grad school so you can teach, it=
is a good reason but the jobs are few and far between, and the competion is=20
So you want to be an artist?
Well then I recommend getting some canvas and some paints or become a=20
You will not have to convince anyone that you are an artist.
Good and bad, what you will make will be art.
Kinda like, if it qwacks like a duck, walks like a duck, swims like a duck,=20
it must be a duck.
looks like a bowl, holds fruit like a bowl, must be a bowl.
All the theory in the world will not give the emperor clothes.
Art is about Ideas, crafts deal with process

Now don=E2=80=99t get me wrong, Good/great potters make great stuff, life af=
things. Stuff of everyday use.
Do you need an MFA to do this? that is the question??
I see a lot of people making just bad stuff, learning from bad teachers and=20
making bad stuff. Not learning the basics.
What are the basics, well if you want to make pottery, try taking a life=20
drawing class, learn to draw the figure. =20
The porportion we learn from working with the figure directly translates to=20
Don=E2=80=99t look at pottery to learn strong form, go back to figure drawin=
Looking at contemporary pottery to learn how to be a potter is feeding off a=
dead carcas.
Do you want to be a rockstar, get your photo on the cover of=20
rollingstone??/ceramics monthly. Thats fine, go for it.
Want to give workshops, be a big fish in a small pond, because that is what=20
ceramics is to the rest of the art world. A small pond.
Back to the MFA thingy,
What do you want your life to be in 10 years?
where do YOU want to be?
Death and taxes, these are the only things you can count on.
Will taking on debt help in your carear.
Here it is, here is what graduate school is about.
It is about language, pure and simple,
and relationships.
It is about the language you speak with your medium.
You might have great pronuciation, but do you have anything to actualy say?
As to relationships, the relationship you have with that school is important=
Ask of the school when you are interviewing them.
What are your grads doing now?
have your grads been able to articulate a life making things with clay.
Do you help your graduates after they leave school?
Job recomendations? Residencies?=20
After you leave school it IS up to you, but we can all use all the help we=20
can get.
What are the good programs?
Who will you get along with, I was lucky at Penn State when I went, Dave=20
Dontigney was still there, and he supported me and what I did.
I have had Peter Pinnell from The University of Nebraska as a teacher, and=20
you cannot beat working with him, he has done it, and he is connected with=20
different people, he knows Clarey Illian, he works in low fire and high fire=
, and=20
Gail Kendal is there and Eddie Domigas, and they are dedicated to the vessle=
Alfred is a good choice, but they take the group more than they take the=20
You cannot argue with the momentum they have in the Ceramics world.=20
Every year 8 new MFA=E2=80=99s leave from that school.
Good aor bad Alfred is a force to be reckoned with.

You have to like the poeple you are going to study with, you are creating a=
professional relationship that will last you the rest of your artistic carea=
MFA programs will not teach you how to teach, in my mind a teacher can tearc=
or can=E2=80=99t, I bet we all have had our share of teachers who can=E2=
=80=99t teach.

And finaly, this is most important thing,
If you go to Graduate school, remember,
It is about you, you and your art. not the glory of your teacher or the=20
Do not let yourself be broken by some of the MFA programs out there, it is a=
sport for some.
Be strong, Have a force of will, have something to say with your medium and=20
by God have a plan for your life after the MFA experience that might not hav=
college teaching as a part of it. And just keep making.