Interview with Mr. Tim Jones, MFA Student

Interview with Mr. Tim Jones, MFA Student

at Maine College of Art

Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the visual arts?

There are a number of reasons why I chose to pursue an MFA in the visual arts. I have been a working artist and teacher for several years, but I felt that both my work and teaching had reached a plateau. I needed both the studio guidance and a stronger theoretical background in order to raise the stakes in my work and in my teaching career.

How did you decide that it was the right time for you to pursue one?

Graduate school is like having a baby, there really is no right time, you just have to do it. I had been searching for a strong, low-residency program, and felt that one was finally being developed, at MECA. I recognized the opportunity to pursue the MFA while maintaining a healthy balance between family, school, and career, so I applied.

What are the most important factors that you considered when evaluating and choosing a graduate program in the visual arts?

I considered accreditation, the experience of the faculty, the practicality of attending (everything from location to scholarships), and the range and quality of student work. MECA is strong in all of these areas.

Were there any important qualities about your school which made it stand out more than the others on your list of possibilities?

I am very familiar with most of the big-name art schools, but I needed a high-quality, low-residency program due to my location and daily responsibilities. MECA provides both.

Given what you now know, what are tips could you provide for other students with regard to choosing and getting accepted into school?

Foremost, research the faculty and student work. Find out what kind of work is being encouraged and produced, and judge for yourself whether or not you would like to join that crowd. Make your application as professional as possible, especially your slides/documentation, and show only your best work.

How did you fund your graduate education? How available were scholarships and other forms of financial assistance?

I am funding my tuition and other costs through secured and unsecured federal loan programs, scholarships, grants, and personal income. While scholarships are available, they only pay about a quarter of the costs.

Exactly what is your graduate degree?

Despite the advent of PhD programs in London and elsewhere, the MFA is still considered the terminal degree in studio art, and remains a prerequisite for most college level teaching positions in the arts. As a practicing, studio artist and aspiring professor, the MFA fulfills my personal needs.

How does your school help its students to find jobs in the visual arts? What are your employment goals?

MECA has a placement service for its graduate program, and is well connected through the College Art Assoc., etc. I intend to continue teaching, preferably in a reputable BFA program, while exhibiting, publishing, and pursuing other venues for my work.

Tell us about your education at your graduate school. What did you like and dislike about it?

MECA is designed to include "intensives," eight and two week residencies attended over two years, and local residencies, where the student works directly with a local studio advisor and indirectly with the permanent MECA faculty. As the name indicates, the residencies are intense. Most students experience radical break-throughs in their studio practices, fed by an abundance of critical theory. Though it is extremely difficult, at times, I have benefited from it all.

How much difference does a good teacher make? Tell us about one good and one bad experience that you had.

How does one define the "good teacher?" I think the good teacher is one who is as tough as she needs to be to challenge the student, is intuitive enough to know when "enough is enough," is skilled enough to direct the student conceptually and technically, and is brave enough to learn from the student, when the opportunity presents itself. A good teacher makes all the difference in the world, but a bad one may teach you just as much, by default. I've had both, on occasion.

Please write and answer three other questions you think of that would benefit prospective graduate students.

Are you likely to judge a school primarily on its' reputation?

Before seriously researching graduate programs, I would have said, "yes." However, having done my homework (so to speak), I found that many schools had more to offer than the big-name schools. My BFA is from a famous school, but I believe I'm receiving a much better education in a new program than the graduate students received at my former school.

How would you rate the importance of studio practice, critical theory, and art/education market awareness?

I'm a firm believer in the importance of all three; however, I would still place studio practice as the top priority, since everything is built upon the body of work produced during graduate school.

What are your ultimate goals for your work, and how does this influence your decision when choosing a graduate program?

I am ambitious when it comes to my art work, and I'd like to eventually work on an international scale; however, I wasn't certain of this when I entered graduate school. For this reason, I chose a program that allows for a large spectrum of art practice, from the perfection of one's craft to the ability to prosper as a working artist in the global art market.

Graduate Program Profile:Maine College of Art

Enrollment: 26 graduate ( 30 max.) 450 undergraduate

School Tuition (in-state/out-of-state): $18,270

Student/Faculty Ratio: 26 students, 3 resident faculty during the residency periods. One on one

student advisor relationships during non-residency periods a minimum of six 2-hour studio visits per semester. Continued contact with resident faculty during non-residency period as well.

Graduation rate: 10 in 2000, 12 in 2001

Graduate degrees and programs offered in visual arts: MFA Studio Arts

The mission of your graduate art school: Our intent with this sixty-credit, 24-month MECA MFA program, that combines a two-month summer intensive and 10-day winter residencies with tutored independent study, is to provide a professional program that meets or exceeds the rigors and vitality of the traditional model as the "terminal" professional degree for studio art and design, that accommodates well qualified and motivated individuals for whom a program of two nine-month residency periods of study is not feasible (because of location, job responsibilities, family responsibilities), and that also incorporates a strong common core (twelve of the sixty credit hours) of advanced academic work in cross-cultural studies and critical thinking as well as art history.

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