“Critiques are incredibly important. It’s the time when you get to put your work up and a group of people take time to just focus on you. It’s rare that you have a group of experts talk about you and your art.”
Critiques are a central element of your development as an MFA student. The discussions you’ll have during your two years here – with faculty, with fellow-students, with visiting artists and curators – will be a driving force in the transformation of your practice and forging of your voice and direction. Informal discussions and formal critiques, like the Review Boards, serve as checkpoints to assess progress and provide opportunities for further discourse about your practice.
Types of Critiques
MFA students participate in Review Boards at the end of their first three semesters. The Review Boards provide an opportunity for students to engage in discussions of their collective work and research, as well as receive valuable feedback from peers and faculty. The Review Boards serve as checkpoints during the two years to assess progress and provide another opportunity for thoughtful discourse regarding their work.
Focusing on verbal and written articulation critiquing skills, the Graduate Group Critique provides a structured forum with faculty, fellow students, visiting artists, and curators to identify and articulate what they want to express. In each of the four semesters of the MFA program, students participate in a Graduate Critique course. During their second year, students also have the option to select Individual critiques for a more focused, one-to-one opportunity with a faculty member. Learning to express concerns, issues, and motivations, as well as the best strategies to do so, will form the basis of their research and practice. Analytical and evaluative skills develop as students gain experience critiquing and questioning their peers.
Graduate students are required to meet with their graduate faculty advisor at least four times a semester to discuss the progress of their current work. Students must also meet with their academic advisor, the Associate Director of Graduate Programs, once each semester for guidance in selecting studio and liberal arts courses that are most appropriate to their path of study. In addition to your faculty advisor and academic advisor, the range of informal mentorship opportunities is abundant. This may come in the form of critiques with faculty members outside of the graduate faculty cohort, studio managers helping facilitate the teaching of specific tools and methods of making, or curatorial staff helping prepare for the Thesis Exhibition.
At the end of each semester, all students enrolled in two or more semester hour units of studio art classes have a Review Board. MFA students meet with a team of two faculty and one graduate student for their review. The faculty and student reviewers critique and assess the body of work and research produced over the semester.
This process gives students and faculty the opportunity to think about art as the effect of integrated creative analysis, rather than as a set of isolated pieces created in different classes. By seeing the semester's work as a whole, faculty and students at the Review Board are able to recognize the explicit and implicit relationships between the works. This ability to understand the work, where the context is determined by the artist, allows the Review Board participants to draw out the artist's organizing questions, ideas, and aims that might not have been readily apparent. This experience also provides an opportunity for the student to articulate and better understand the integration of their studio projects and related academic work.
At the second Review Board, a determination is made as to whether the graduate student can move on to their thesis year. The approval process is managed, and ultimately determined, by the specific faculty members participating in each Review Board. The outcome of the approval process is recorded in the student’s Review Board folder and submitted back to the Registrar’s Office.