A friend, who recently completed her MFA, called me up the other day worried that she had gotten dumber since undergrad. She had come across some essays from college she had written and was both impressed and concerned how intelligent she sounded-varied vocabulary, smart ideas, compelling thesis. We both graduated from strong liberal arts programs and I could immediately relate to her concern, having recently read over some old philosophy papers of my own. And it makes me consider the possible intellectual dangers of pursuing an MFA.
I have learned invaluable information since coming to art school–about the contemporary art market, about how how to talk about work, how to write artist statement, how to enter the world as an artist and theories on how to stay afloat, etc–but it is very one-sided. The pass/fail system of my program allows for a certain amount of freedom to prioritise individually, but the motivation level in classes deemed not-100%-relevant-to-studio-practice seems to suffer.
I admit to enjoying total studio-emersion on one hand, but on the other hand I miss the rigorous academic atmosphere of my undergrad where I was able to explore subjects not directly related to my studio practice (which I continue to draw influence from) without being treated as an artist. Typically non-art-related courses such as Math or Science classes geared towards art majors have the potential for not being as challenging or informative as their traditional counterparts.
As artists, we are encouraged to absorb and reflect our environments, our brains, and experiences, and if presented material which is already partially digested through the art perspective, it becomes harder to find a fresh and sincere angle. The danger of such a narrow academic environment makes me question the benefits of a BFA all-together. I think it is far more interesting to approach art-making, not as a student of art and wholly art-centric individual who re-arranging a series of art-appropriate gestures within the context of art history, but as a critical thinker and generally curious individual with a fresh perspective on the world fueled by a conglomeration of a variety of experiences who chooses to express those ideas through art.