News and More from the Art Alumni Group University of California, Berkeley


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Graduate Program Update

Hello dear Art Alumni,

I'm writing to catch you up on the goings on of the Dept. of Art Practice.
As Graduate Adviser for the past three years, I'm particularly up to date on the status of our graduate program, so that is what I'll concentrate on sharing with you.

At present we run an MFA program with 13 or 14 graduate students per year. It's a two year program, and to achieve the degree, our students must produce an artistic thesis that is exhibited at the Berkeley Art Museum in May. The 5.25 full-time faculty we currently have in the department all work with graduate students, but we have also been able to hire outside advisers to with with MFA students in their second year, serving as members of their thesis committee. This has been a terrific way for students to make contact with artists who operate outside academia, and who come to them with no agenda other than to help and push them toward their best working practice.
In recent years we've had Allan de Souza, Stephanie Syjuco, Sergio de la Torre, Trevor Paglen, Vincent Fecteau, Pamela Wilson, Kota Ezawa, Josephine Taylor, and other internationally-known artists working with our grads in this capacity.
Our visiting artist lecture series has also provided extra studio visits to MFA students. Each year we bring 6 or 7 artists to campus to give a lecture, and visit the Richmond Field Station studios. In this way we are able to keep a fresh set of eyes on our students work throughout the year, and expose those students to visiting artists. We've found that some of these visitors go on to curate our students' work into
exhibitions, and even help them create relationships with galleries and dealers.

Our graduate program is also extremely competitive to get into: we receive upwards of 200 applications per year for 7 places, which allows us to pick students of high caliber. Many of these MFA students do not come straight from their undergrad programs, but have been out in the world working for a few years, and bring with them their life and studio experience. Of utmost importance to our ability to attract good applicants is the fact that our grad program is fully funded. Students receive a stipend as well as having their tuition paid. In their second year, they teach Art 8 or Art 23AC, and earn money and really valuable teaching experience that way as well. So we're finding that our student "body" is mature and mostly very self-starting. We've created a media lab and a wood shop at the Richmond Field Station, as well as building our large media lab here at Kroeber, so there are ample tools and spaces for students to work in.

Our curriculum for graduate studies has changed somewhat, to emphasize the vast resources of the UCB community at large. MFA students take at least two courses from outside of the Art dept. during their time here, and we see the powerful impact of faculty from a broad range of disciplines on the students' work. They are studying philosophy, physics, rhetoric, computer science, sociology, art history, environmental science, history, performance studies, interactive design, and architecture, to give you a far from exhaustive list. The presence of the Berkeley Center for New Media also offers our students various fora for discussion with students from other disciplines, as well as a second busy lecture series to attend.

Our recent hire of Brody Reiman to teach sculpture and run the sculpture area has proved to be a very, very good one. Brody has the most astonishing ability to motivate good work from students that I have ever seen. The quality and quantity of 3D and installation work being produced by the department has grown hugely since she began as an Assistant Professor in 2007 (though she'd taught as a lecturer several times previous to 2007, and we were impressed with her then too). She is in the process of setting up a laser cutter for the department (our first!) and that represents an exciting new step forward for us. Brody and I hope to begin combining our curricula with a new course in video and sculpture as well.

At the undergrad level, we're seeing a growth of declared art majors. We now have something like 180 majors, which, distributed amongst only 5.25 full time faculty and 4 staff is a formidable work load. But we continue to have the help of our four devoted continuing lecturers - Randy Hussong, Kevin Radley, John McNamara and Craig Nagasawa, who do a yeoman's share of work. Our visiting lecturers have provided an ever-broadening range of courses to our curriculum for undergrads. We now offer courses with titles such as "Experimental Landscapes," "Issues in Multi-Cultural display," "Art, Medicine and Disability," (Katherine Sherwood's legendary course), "Art and Meditation," "Sound Art," "Game Design," and, in the summer time, Digital Photography. Students clamor for more classes, and when the University budget provides, we provide. We're eager to be able to offer more courses.

Many of the faculty continue to travel widely for exhibitions of their work, or for performances, or screenings of films and videos. Katherine Sherwood currently has a one-person show at Paule Anglim Gallery in San Francisco. Greg Niemeyer won a MacArthur Foundation-funded grant last summer to build a complex interactive project. We all treasure our studio time! We're lucky, also to have a new Chair at the helm: Hertha Sweet Wong, whose background is in Creative Writing, but whose research has focused mostly on Native American folk culture. She began her 3-year term this fall and we're VERY pleased to have her.

Morale is good! We're delighted we've been able to build up a media lab that is the envy of many departments on campus. In room 285 we have a video shooting studio and lecture space, and in room 295 we have a computer lab with 20 dedicated stations for animation, game design, and video editing. It's a big change, and students hop on to the equipment as fast as we can train them on it.

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have, and grateful for your interest and continued dedication to the Department of Art Practice.


Anne Walsh
Associate Professor for Video
Graduate Advisor