MFA Rankings = A Whole Lot of BS

Been researching more MFA programs lately, and attended the SFAI Graduate Portfolio Day yesterday.  A few observations:

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The view from SFAI is both beautiful and ominous. Symbolic in many ways.

1. Researching MFA programs and MFA prospects is inherently depressing. But I was given great feedback on my portfolio, particularly by Scott Hess, from Laguna College of Art + Design, Yolanda Hester from Art Center College of Design, and SFAI. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

2. I met this 20-year old girl from Fresno who had a solid graphic design portfolio, who wanted to learn more about MFA programs but was totally shut down and discouraged by CalArts and Art Center. I told her she’s already ahead of the game by just showing up and putting herself out there, because most artists find excuses not to show up (for a myriad of absurd reasons). This appeared to make her feel better, but it brings me to this point: Art Schools, you are not doing anyone justice by being jerks. Your role is to educate and help. Quit being snobs.

3. Why is US News.com still considered a reliable source for school rankings? Their ranking methodology looks largely like a whole lot of bullshit: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/2013/03/11/methodology-best-fine-arts-schools-rankings

“Schools in the specialty rankings, which are based solely on nominations from school officials, are numerically ranked in descending order based on the number of nominations they received as long as the school/program received seven or more nominations in that specialty area.” 

….Um, Are you kidding me? 

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5 Comments on “MFA Rankings = A Whole Lot of BS”

  1. I went to SFAI from 2001-2005, as an undergrad, but was 27 when I started, so developed strong connections (at least while there) with many grads.
    My thoughts:
    They mixed seamlessly with us, unless they were squirrelled away in their studios on 3rd street, where I know at least a few of them basically lived.
    The consensus was that if you did BFA at SFAI, do MFA somewhere ‘more exotic,’ whereas many grads were coming from BFA programs less exotic, and this was their wild act of artistic freedom.
    SFAI has a rep as a radical school; it was more so before I got there and it has changed quite a bit in 10 years.
    No more smoking cigs or joints during crits, no more of that aura of ‘we only do fine art here.’ but nonetheless, it’s the oldest art institution in the US. It does have something about it, and I felt it, and I know classmates of mine felt it and we were changed for the better by it.
    If you can get away with not going and be fulfilled by artmaking, I say stay away. But if the idea of 10-12 people spending a couple years, getting to know intimate details about your work, you, and your life, and helping you in ways immeasurably greater than you could do alone sounds good, I suggest seriously considering it.
    best of luck.

    • Cindy Shih says:

      Hey Justin, I really appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts. I think you’re completely right, an MFA is worthwhile if you can afford to take a pause in the art making and really invest time and money for more resources. The thought of putting 100% into getting better at what I do sounds amazing– and I applied to a few programs for the upcoming fall. If I don’t get in, no skin off my back- but it’s worth a try. Thanks again, and best of luck in your endeavors as well! Do you have a website?


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