If you're looking to further your education in the arts, getting a master's degree in fine arts is one direction you'll find both challenging and exciting.
MFAs are generally known to be terminal degrees in that graduates are considered experts in the field. Additionally, many MFAs are considered studio degrees, meaning students not only receive a theoretical education, but also acquire ample practical experience throughout their studies.
MFA in art, new media, and theatre and dramatic arts.
According to Mary Kavanagh, associate professor in the department of art at the University of Lethbridge, graduate students complete coursework and also develop a thesis which includes both a material project and a written text.
Lethbridge's graduate program wraps up with the student showing their work in an exhibition or performance then discussing the ideas of the project via the written component.
Throughout their studies, students in each of the arts streams have automatic access to a number of facilities offered through the university. From workshops stocked with every material, photo labs and camera equipment, computer and digital labs with high-end printers, to a variety of other technical facilities for productions and recitals.
Kavanagh says the faculty of art accepts eight students across the three MFA programs and their master of music program. Because of its small size, students are able to have an intimate connection to faculty, staff, and peers.
By keeping the program small, Lethbridge has also been able to guarantee funding for all incoming students! This year we were able to offer graduate assistantships (GA)┬¡, for which the student works 10 hours per week, usually as a teaching assistant. It also gives them wonderful and really practical experience in the field, says Kavanagh. On top of the GA, students also receive matching funding from the faculty of fine arts. Altogether, each student is awarded a total of $14,400 across their two years of study.
MFA in creative nonfiction
The University of King's College offers an arts graduate program unlike any other in Canada. The master of fine arts in creative nonfiction is a two-year limited residency program that focuses on developing skills in writing nonfiction works.
The 'creative' part is what sometimes throws people off, says Don Sedgwick, executive director of the MFA program. The reason they used [the word] 'creative' before 'nonfiction' is to suggest that some of the techniques involved in fiction other than making things up are applied to nonfiction' You use very literary techniques to make the subject come more alive. The program focuses on memoirs, essays, and narratives versus guides on how to build a backyard deck, he says.
The unique program includes two two-week summer residencies on-campus in Halifax as well as two one-week winter residencies in Toronto and New York City'the publishing capitals of North America'says Stephen Kimber, journalism professor at the University of King's College. The summer residency is intense, he says. It's focused primarily on writing, although one of the things that's important about this particular program that I think is different than other creative writing programs is we have a very strong focus on getting your work published.
The MFA program, which is just entering its second year, sent their first group of students to Toronto in January, 2014. According to Kimber, students got the opportunity to meet with the nonfiction editors at Harper-Collins. At the end of the week they were given a chance to practice their pitches for their proposals with an editor, an agent, and a publicist, and also receive some feedback, he says.
When students aren't participating in any of the residencies, they're continuing to work on their projects from home or wherever they currently reside. During that time they're also working one-on-one with a mentor who would be a writing or editing teacher or professional.
With only 19 students accepted in their first year out of twice as many applicants, Sedgwick says he's received a lot of positive feedback. There are a number of students who have already secured literary agents, some that have already got publishing deals. So as far as we can tell, off to a great start!
MFA in criticism and curatorial practice
OCAD University's highly selective, highly competitive master of fine arts in criticism and curatorial practice keeps to accepting seven to eight students a year, says Michael Prokopow, associate dean of graduate studies.
It's kept purposely small, not only because learning is better achieved in smaller groups, but also because of the institutional arrangements with the AGO and other cultural institutions, he says. According to OCAD University, the MFA program has partnerships with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the Textile Museum, C Magazine, the Toronto Alliance of Art Critics, and other artist-run centres where students are given opportunities to attend events and even find internship placements.
The criticism and curatorial practice program offers skills, or skill-based learning: how does one curate, how do you choose works, how do you put them together, how do you frame the questions that would inform the selection of work? All the things that curators do in museums, everywhere, he says. But this program offers hands-on learning, institutionally embedded learning, to provide students with the wherewithal to be curators.
Prokopow says the majority of these MFA graduates find work in the cultural sector, specifically at some type of art institute. That wide and deep knowledge [gained from the MFA program] allows graduates to go work in traditional institutions, places like the AGO and the ROM, or to join cultural ministries in the Ontario government or federal government.
MFAs offer unique experiences and career paths, so if you're all about art, these master's degrees could be next on your canvas.