When members of the MFA Class of 2011 hit campus in the fall, they’ll ring in a significant milestone for the Graduate School of Art.
The two-year program, which accepts a maximum of 50 students total, will welcome 27 new students in August, the largest class in its history. Patricia Olynyk, director of the Graduate School of Art, credited the focus and format of the program with helping win over students, who chose the Sam Fox School over institutions such as Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Cranbrook Academy of Art, Hunter College-CUNY, University of Illinois at Chicago, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) among others.
"Our program does not prioritize any one singular medium or aesthetic, narrative direction, theoretical stance, or socio-political position," Olynyk said. "It has an open-ended structure, which allows student artists to move beyond the formal issues and subjective insights that typically relate to studio-based practice into a variety of other contexts that address broader intellectual and social frameworks."
The freedom to pursue diverse interests particularly appealed to Kristin Fleischmann, a St. Louis native who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Denver. Though her concentration was mostly in painting, she found herself increasingly drawn to new media offerings her senior year, but the lack of crossover between departments meant she had to push hard to do work in different areas. Her current work is influenced by everything from fashion to science to street art.
"I knew I would fit in perfectly," Fleischmann said of the Sam Fox School's Graduate Art program. "It's an interdisciplinary and independent environment where I know I can thrive, because I won't be held to any specific medium or feel I'm stepping on anyone’s toes; I can just work."
The recipient of an Olin Fellowship, which supports graduate study by women at Washington University, Fleischmann said she is excited to represent the MFA program in that capacity.
"I've always been a big proponent of women and education, strong women," Fleischmann said. "I'm really happy that I can represent women as artists; they're definitely underrepresented in the creative fields."
One quality, in particularly, distinguished the Sam Fox School from other programs for Daniel Roberts.
"The facilities were obviously pretty good, but what I was really impressed with were the faculty and community of students," said Roberts, who also was accepted to Cranbrook and Hunter.
An art major with a focus in sculpture as an undergraduate at Oregon State, Roberts believes a supportive network of colleagues will be crucial as he embarks on the next stage of his development as an artist.
"I look at myself as almost being in a laboratory," Roberts said. "There's a lot of successes, a lot of failures, and I figure it out from there."
The close-knit nature of the Sam Fox School’s MFA program was evident during the recruitment process. Current graduate students actively participated in events such as the open house, which brought prospective students to campus in March.
When Nick Hutchings (MFA10) was looking at grad schools, the connections he made at the Sam Fox School open house convinced him that it was the right place for him – and inspired him to be heavily involved with the recruitment of the incoming class. "That was so significant to me, and I wanted to give others a similar if not better experience," Hutchings said.
To that end, he made an effort to talk with all the prospective students at the open house and connect them with current members of the program who had similar interests, in the hope of initiating dialogues that will continue to develop in the months and years to come.
"There are some really amazing artists in this group," Hutchings said of his future classmates. "I'm excited to see where they'll grow and develop, because I know that, for myself and others, we have really changed dramatically since we started in the program. We've been pushed and challenged."
That's exactly what Fleischmann and her classmates want to hear.
"I think that grad school's one of those places where they put a mirror right up in front of your face and break you down but build you up at the same time," Fleischmann said. "What I'm hoping for is a lot of critical analysis, as well as learning about myself as an artist, where I fit in, and where I want to take my work."