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ridiculous tirade about life and mfa

updated sat 23 oct 04


Steve Slatin on thu 21 oct 04

Vince --

I'm not bashing the MFA. I do, however, think that
it's unfair when the selecting works for shows
to take the education of the artist/craftsman into

The quality of the resume does not alter the quality
of the product. Erratic as the results of jurying-in
are, they should at least exist without reference
to degrees.

An MFA program is an excellent means to acquire
in-depth, intense exposure to technical aspects
of a craft -- painting, pottery, sculpture, writing
fiction, doing lighting in the theater, etc. etc. It
makes it possible for a person to acquire a range of
experience and exposure mentoring and so on all
together in concentrated form.

If you are hiring a person to do such work, there is,
IMHO, a thin justification for relying on possession
of a degree. Most specifically (as I said previously)
it is arguable that success in search of
an academic degree be a prerequisite for working in
an academic environment. When you are purchasing an
object (a painting, a pot, etc.), however, if the
person's education means anything to you then (again,
IMHO) you're somewhere between misguided and a
complete fool.

I believe the only fair test of art or of craft is
the quality of the work.

As far as the people with MFA's, I admire them for
their efforts, and envy them the opportunity to
study in that type of environment. But in the
last year I bought myself a good wheel, a good
electric kiln, and had a studio built. (I put in the
last of the pegboard and painted it this afternoon.)
Even if there were an MFA program nearby (there isn't)
and even if I could qualify for it (I couldn't -- I
can't draw) I wouldn't trade my
studio and equipment for a semester or two of formal
education. Education without tools would leave me
unable to work. Tools without education leave me
less sophisticated in my work, but still productive.

Best wishes -- Steve Slatin

--- Vince Pitelka wrote:

> Why do we encounter this periodically on Clayart?
> What is the point of MFA
> bashing? Is it sour grapes from people who wish
> they had one?

Steve Slatin -- Lies told, whiskey hauled, widows tended.
Sequim, Washington, USA

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Vince Pitelka on thu 21 oct 04

> Were possession of an MFA considered a prerequisite
> solely for academic positions, it would be
> marginally acceptable. Given that it's sometimes
> used as a qualification for artistry, it's quite
> foolish. Does one ask for evidence of Robert Burns'
> education, or Shakespeare's? Did DaVinci need a
> degree, or Raphael, or Rodin?

Why do we encounter this periodically on Clayart? What is the point of MFA
bashing? Is it sour grapes from people who wish they had one? If so, what a
silly waste of time, especially when grandstanded on a worldwide public
venue. I'm really curious to know what this is all about. I mean, I'm
sitting trying to imagine what could possibly be the motive or purpose of
such a statement? The last part especially slips into the realm of the
completely ridiculous.

The MFA degree in studio art represents the successful completion of a
rigorous program of study culminating in a professional quality exhibition
of the candidate's work. The MFA degree means that the candidate has gone
through that rigorous training and exhibition, nothing more, nothing less.
The work still has to stand on its own merit, and if the graduate is a
candidate for a job, then they have to defend the work and they have to know
what the hell they are talking about (depending on the questions asked by
the particular employment venue, and their particular priorities).

In this day of accountability and litigation, someone hired to teach must
have documented qualifications. That is a fact, for better or for worse.
There may be situations where someone of world reputation can still get an
academic teaching job without an advanced degree, but those days are
disappearing fast. Yes, I am sorry about that too. I think it sucks. But
let's just accept the MFA for what it is, and stop making pointless
statements about it. The desire to get an MFA is an admirable objective,
regardless of career or life objective, and achieving an MFA is an
accomplishment to be proud of. Okay?
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Craft, Tennessee Technological University
Smithville TN 37166, 615/597-6801 x111,