Interview with Ms. Sheri McKenzie, Vice President of Enrollment Management

Interview with Ms. Sheri McKenzie, Vice President of Enrollment Management

at California College of Arts and Crafts

What are the top three reasons that students choose to pursue a graduate degree in the visual arts?

The primary reason artists enter an MFA program is to further develop their studio practice in a supportive, creative environment. Beyond that, the reasons for entering graduate school are as varied and individual as the students themselves.

Professionally speaking, why should students pursue graduate programs in art? What advantages can they attain from it? When is the best time to pursue one?

Students who pursue graduate study in the arts receive valuable exposure to new ideas and the opportunity to learn from established practicing artists. As far as the best time to enroll, that's a very individual decision. Some young artists enter an MFA program soon after receiving their undergraduate degree. Other, more mature students, have considerable life experience. While many have a bachelor of fine arts, this is not necessary. Many artists come to their creative work from other than an undergraduate art school experience.

What are the three most important factors that prospective students should consider when evaluating and choosing a graduate program in the visual arts?

That's easy: outstanding facilities; faculty who are themselves practicing artists, and who will both challenge and support you; and a dynamic location that will expand your artistic horizons.

How is your graduate art program different than those at other schools? How is technology integrated into your programs?

With campuses in San Francisco and Oakland, CCAC offers students an art education that goes well beyond the boundaries of our campuses. Our students benefit immeasurably from the progressive cultural climate of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region rich in significant artists. Our graduate programs enhance the connections among students pursuing diverse genres. In addition, our MFA in Fine Arts students may work with artists outside the College whose accomplishments and teaching can enlarge their vision. The CCAC Institute provides exposure to the work and ideas of emerging and prominent artist, architects, and designers through exhibitions and a range of public programs. Our Center for Art and Public Life offers students opportunities to learn from and contribute to some of the Bay Area's culturally diverse neighborhoods. With these advantages, we believe our graduates leave CCAC prepared to lead deeper, more satisfying lives as artists.

CCAC students may choose their own involvement with technology. Our facilities offer them the opportunity to do sophisticated digital work. Our seven Image Shops, including a dedicated lab for graduate students, contain the latest in graphic, CAD, and multimedia computer technologies. The Media Center provides high-end equipment dedicated for graduate use.

How selective are graduate schools for the visual arts, and what are some hot tips for getting accepted?

Graduate programs are selective. At CCAC, we very much recommend that prospective students meet with the graduate director prior to applying for a face-to-face conversation about their work and their goals as an artist, and to learn more about the program and how it can meet their needs.

How do most students fund their graduate education? How available are scholarships and other forms of financial assistance at your school?

Most students fund their education through a combination of scholarships, loans, and work. CCAC's financial aid office helps students navigate the various federal and state grant and loan programs. In addition, we offer a number of institutional scholarships (need-based and merit) and teaching assistantships to graduate students.

Can an MFA include a focus on just about any visual art discipline? What's the difference between an MFA with a specialization and an MA in any given specialty?

CCAC offers 10 areas of focus for the MFA in Fine Arts: ceramics, film/video, glass, metals, painting/drawing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, textiles, and wood/furniture. Our most popular graduate program is painting.

An MFA program differs from a MA program most fundamentally by its inclusion of an intense studio experience, which we believe is critical for growing artists. At CCAC, our MFA program is further enhanced by our interdisciplinary approach to studying and creating art: you will find yourself in a rich environment that encourages the exchange of multiple perspectives and experiences.

How does your school help its students to find jobs in the visual arts?

CCAC graduates have access to the CCAC Career Services Resource Center, which offers one-on-one career counseling; resume and portfolio workshops; job listings; our Guide to Grants, Fellowships, and Residencies for Individual Artists, Architects, and Designers; and more

Tell us about some of your MFA graduates.

Squeak Carnwath (MFA '77) is an internationally recognized painter. The recipient of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Guggenheim fellowships, she shows her work frequently in both solo and group exhibitions. Her work is included in the permanent installation, Fly, Flight, Fugit, at the San Francisco International Airport.

Anthony Discenza's (MFA '00) video projection Phosphorescence, a melange of TV images and sounds that form "a beautiful ruin," was included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial. In September 2000 his solo show all heads turn when the hunt goes by opened at the Jennjoy Gallery in San Francisco; in January 2001 he had a solo show at The Lab in San Francisco. His work was also recently included in New Work: Contemporary Figuration at the Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco.

Todd Hido's (MFA '96) eerie photographs of American houses have changed the way we define the word "home." His work has been shown in the Julie Saul Gallery, New York, and the Art Institute of Pittsburg and is in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). His most recent exhibition, Todd Hido: New Photographs at the Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco, features night pictures of neglected houses on the outskirts of cities where the underclass are warehoused. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "Hido invests each image with such specificity and distinction that it holds the same interest for the viewer that a portrait does.... Hido shows that poverty is as diverse as wealth."

Laurie Reid (MFA '96) is the recipient of a 1997/98 SECA Art Award. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Berkeley Art Museum, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and SFMOMA. Her monumental watercolor Ruby Dew was selected for the 2000 Whitney Biennial Exhibition. Reid's work was recently on view in the group show, Juvenalia, at the Yerba Center for the Arts, San Francisco; in Big, at the Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis; and in 00/01 at the James Harris Gallery, Seattle.

Sara Roberts (MFA '88), a pioneer of media arts, is director of the integrated media program at the California Institute for the Arts in Los Angeles. Her work has been exhibited internationally at Videonale in Bonn, Germany; the International Center for Photography, New York; the Contemporary Art Museum of Chicago; and the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands.

Jon Rubin (MFA '93) and Harrell Fletcher (MFA '94) are self-described interdisciplinary artists who collaborate to create art for the communities in which they live. Part documentary, part anthropology, their work often leaves behind a dialogue about art and life where one did not previously exist.

Tell us about some of your noteworthy faculty.

Kim Anno is both a painter and a public artist. Influenced by Buddhist and Islamic architecture, her paintings are based in abstraction-hollow wood shapes that she paints with oil glaze. Anno has exhibited widely in such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Randolf Street Gallery, Chicago; and Orange County Museum of Art, California. Her numerous awards include a California Art Council grant, a San Francisco Arts Commission grant, a City of Oakland public art commission grant, a Flintridge Foundation for Djerassi residency, a Western States Federation/NEA fellowship, and the Yaddo Foundation Residency, New York.

Anne Carson is a poet, essayist, and scholar. Her works include Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay; Glass, Irony and God; Plainwater: Essays and Poetry; Autobiography of Red; Economy of the Unlost; and Men in the Off Hours. A visiting professor at CCAC in 2001-02, she is the recipient of a 2000 MacArthur fellowship.

Jeanne Finley is a nationally renowned video/filmmaker. Her work was recently shown in Bay Area Now at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. A Fulbright scholar, Finley has also received an NEA fellowship. She is chair of CCAC's Film/Video Department.

Clifford Rainey, chair of the Glass Department, is an internationally acclaimed artist, sculptor, and draftsperson with an impressive list of major exhibitions spanning three decades. His works can be found in numerous permanent museum collections and public art projects worldwide. Rainey is both a graduate and former faculty member of the Royal College of Art, London. He holds the Virginia A. Groot Foundation award for sculpture.

Hugh Steinberg is a poet. He is the author of The House of the Dead. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in creative writing at Stanford University, Steinberg received a 2001 NEA creative writing fellowship.

Larry Sultan, photographer and public artist, uses his artwork as a conduit to question such established institutions as the family and the mass media. His most recent exhibition and book, Pictures from Home, captures a decade of work in photographic and textual documentation of his family. The recipient of grants from the NEA, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Englehard Foundation, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Sultan's work has been exhibited widely. His photographs were included in Beyond Boundaries: Contemporary Photography in California, the inaugural show of the new Ansel Adams Center in San Francisco, and in Capturing Light: Masterpieces of California Photography, 1850-2000, at the Oakland Museum of California.

Lucille Tenazas is the chair of CCAC's MFA in Design program. She was educated in Manila, Philippines; studied at CCAC; and received her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her San Francisco practice, Tenazas Design, reflects her interest in the complexity of language and the overlapping relationship of meaning, form, and content. Tenazas was president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts from 1996 to 1998. A retrospective of her work has been exhibited at SFMOMA; her work is also included in the collection of the Cooper-Hewett National Design Museum.

Mark Thompson is a sculptor whose work has been widely shown in the United States, Europe, and Japan. He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships from the Flintridge Foundation, AVA 11: Award in Visual Arts, the California Arts Council, Art Matters, and the Rockefeller Foundation. His work was included in the recent group show Essence of Composition at the Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco. He was recently awarded a Civitella Ranieri Center Fellowship for a five-week residency in Umbertide, Italy.

Martin Venezky is adjunct professor of graphic design. He is principal of the San Francisco design form Appetite Engineers and art director of Speak, a magazine of popular culture, literature, music, and art. He received a BFA from Dartmouth College and a MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. In 1997 Venezky was listed among I.D. Magazine's "ID40" list of influential designers. His recent work includes the design of Open, published by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Graduate Program Profile: California College of Arts and Crafts

Enrollment: 130 (graduate)

School Tuition (in-state/out-of-state): $20,440 per year (all students)

Student/Faculty Ratio: 9/1

Graduation rate: 93%

Graduate degrees and programs offered in visual arts: painting/drawing, printmaking, photography, film/video, ceramics, glass, metals, wood/furniture, sculpture, textiles, design, visual criticism, writing

The mission of your graduate art school: CCAC prepares students to shape culture through their work as artists, architects, and designers. The College seeks to educate students for life-long creativity and service to their communities.

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