Making the decision to go to grad school

This summer, I began something new. I’m attending the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. I enrolled in the Masters of Fine Art in Studio Art (MFAST ), a small, interdisciplinary MFA program. “Interdisciplinary” means I work alongside all types of visual artists – from sculptors to performance artists. This was important to me, because I’m exploring new mediums and no longer consider myself strictly a 2-d artist. The program is low-residency. It includes part-time study during the regular Fall and Spring semesters, and in the Summer, an intensive 6-week on-campus session (the “residency” part). I’ve just completed my first summer session, and I’ll go back to Baltimore the next three summers.

Working in the studio this summer
Working in the studio this summer

Over the past several years, I’ve re-focused on my passion for making art. I’ve built up my body of work, exhibited locally and, most importantly, connected with local artists to form a supportive community. Making art can be extremely rewarding, but can also be isolating. The studio requires hours of work and patience, while fighting the nagging fear about whether what you are making is even worthwhile. As I approached 30 I knew that I wanted to do even more to push myself as an artist and create a stronger community. I wanted to work with artists like me: determined to evolve, willing to work hard and be vulnerable, to give and receive honest criticism.

For me, MICA offers the flexibility to complete my MFA alongside the life and career I’ve built, and to create whatever I want. I applied with a portfolio of paintings and drawings, but if I want to focus on making installations made out of dryer lint, that’s encouraged. (I am not going to do this, but one of the thesis students this year did, and it was challenging and wonderful). While the program is open and independent, it’s a lot of work. One of the main words used at information and orientation sessions for the program was “rigor.” The program is small and we work closely one-on-one with mentors. During the summer, we attend a whirlwind of seminars, group critiques and individual critiques with visiting artists. It requires a big time commitment even during the remote semesters, a big financial investment and a lot of gumption (current favorite word) to experiment and take risks. (Risk – another one of the main words used at information and orientation sessions).

It’s this risk-taking that ultimately drew me to embark on my grad school journey. One major challenge that I face, like most artists, is time. I work full-time, as most of us do, and I’m fortunate to have a rewarding creative career in digital design. It’s amazing to have the financial freedom from this career to support my art practice. Yet, it can be a struggle to create work in new ways because the pain of potential failure feels so great. It takes so much precious time to create anything. It’s so important for me to break out of this trap. I’ll post again about my summer, but for now I’ll just say this: the encouragement to take risks I have already found within my grad school community has given me confidence that I made the right decision to go for it!

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