search  current discussion  categories  teaching 

mfa is a-ok

updated wed 20 oct 04


Sam Hoffman on tue 19 oct 04

Sam Hoffman here; long-time lurker, first-time post... I've been
encouraged by my friends from this summer's Kanayama Residency, John
Baymore, Tony Clennell, Carol-Ann Michaelson, Kabir Syed, and Lee
Love, to throw in my two cents. Here goes...

This is quite an interesting discussion about the merits of pursuing
a Masters Degree. An MFA is many things to many people; a certificate
to teach, cheap studio for several years, bragging rights, an intense
mentor-student relationship, etc. It is unfortunate that many students
enter grad school without really knowing why. (Mel, I think this is
more of a moral dilemma than older students) If college/university
teaching is in the cards, than an MFA is necessary. But there is an
infinite number of other reasons to spent two/three years of intense
study at one of the many grad programs out there.

I received my MFA two years ago from Kent State University, studying
with Kirk Mangus and Eva Kwong. All of my expectations, in terms of
technical improvement, critique skills, development of personal style,
etc., were exceed. What I did not anticipate, but ended up being the
most significant aspect of grad school for me, was the number of
influential artists that I would meet as a direct result of my
relationship with Kirk, Eva, and the KSU studio.
During my three years at Kent State, visiting artists included Larry
Bush, Carry Esser, Fred Olsen, Janet Mansfield, Richard Shaw, Jamie
Walker, Anabeth Rosen, Curtis Hoarde, Norm Schulman, Lao Xiou Ping, Oh
Kang, Betty Woodman, John Mason, and Ron Nagle. (I'm sure I am
forgetting some) Kirk and Eva also introduced me outside of school to
artists such as Peter Voulkos, Dan Anderson, Jim Leedy, Paul Soldner,
Chris Gustin, Rob Barnard, and Rudy Staffel.
I am not throwing these names around casually. My MFA experience
afforded me the opportunity to learn from the top artists in our field.
Obviously, what I end up doing with these opportunities/experiences
is the critical part. But I think such exposure is somewhat unique to
a BFA or MFA program. Even though art centers like Penland, Archie
Bray, and Anderson Ranch attract world-class artists, it strikes me
that the relationship with the artists is different.
Anyway, I hope I have presented a significant part of the equation to
anyone considering pursuing an MFA. Its not right for everyone, but
sure was for me!


S.L. Hoffman Pottery

PS- Sorry if this message got sent twice...