Is an MA in studio art useful?
7 April 2009 13 Comments
My wife and I continue to be overwhelmed with options and a lack of direction in our search for the next stage in life, as it were. Yesterday her sister — with whom she’s quite close — suggested we move eastward to Muncie, Indiana, so they could be in the same city. That rationale doesn’t hold much water, though, as she and her husband hope to leave Indiana when he graduates in a year.
Regardless, since we have so little apparent direction, I gave my sister-in-law’s idea a few minutes worth of internet research. I learned that real estate in Muncie seems to be very inexpensive (from what a person can tell on the internet, not knowing the quality of a neighborhood and such), and found in particular a swell old house on the historical registry for under $45k.
I also surfed around Ball State’s website and learned that BSU offers an MA in studio art, but not an MFA. This was a bit surprising; I expected a university of that size to offer the latter.
I haven’t given serious consideration to an MA up to now, mainly because it’s not a terminal degree, required for teaching at the college level. I asked a friend at JBU if they’d hire someone with an MA, and he replied “Yes, if they’re working towards a terminal degree.” That makes an MA pretty much worthless to me from what I can tell, unless it counts towards an MFA program in the future — which it might (if you know, please comment!).
I’ve had some conversation about MAs and MFAs with artist Sarah Irani. Sarah has a friend who earned an MFA from the University of Dallas and had a terrible experience. She quotes her friend: “As for grad school, it’s a waste because it is 1% useful instruction on making/becoming an artist and 99% a vetting and indoctrination process to weed out ‘the unworthy.'” I have to hope that my own alma mater, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, is more than this based on my knowledge of its ceramics department. However, the Art School Confidential stereotype has all to much basis in reality.
Sarah has an MA. She listed her reasons for not getting an MFA in an email:
* I was working at a college that offered an MA. I got tuition reimbursement for working there.
* I didn’t want to deal with the crap that they dish out at art schools.
* I was working as an apprentice to a sculptor on big commissions from the time that I graduated until after I was married. There was no sense in paying to get an MFA when I was operating my own studio and getting paid to do big sculptures.
* By the time I was done with the commissions, I was married and wasn’t in the position to move to be close to a school. I could have driven over an hour each way to Baltimore or Washington, but the expense would have been unbearable.
* The expense. My friend who went to University of Dallas is so overwhelmed by student debt that she’ll never afford a home. I do not recommend getting into debt with an MFA. It doesn’t pay off.
“All of that being said, an MA works for me and my situation. What are your goals? If your goals are anything other than being a college professor, I say skip the MFA. It is probably a waste of your time. If you want to be a professor, then you more or less have to go,” she continued, and then suggested Notre Dame, which apparently doesn’t charge MFA students tuition. Sounds too good to be true, but I plan to look into it anyway!
Of course that’s just what I need, another option.
Sarah reminded me this afternoon, as we chatted via Gmail, that such a circumstance as my wife and I find ourselves in is also an exciting time. She quoted her father, who used to tell her “that if I didn’t have a word from God, to move in the direction of my desires and trust God to care for me.
Not my selfish desires, mind you.”