MFA in Fine Arts

MFA in Fine Arts

School of Visual Arts (SVA)

Dominique Palladino and Sarah Johansen, How to Baste a Turkey Roast, 2014. Video and installation (lollipops, latex paint and Adidas). Photo: Jacqueline Iannocone.
March 2, 2015
MFA in Fine Arts

School of Visual Arts (SVA)
MFA Fine Arts
133 West 21st Street, 9th floor
New York, NY 10011

Diversity is too sweet a word now. All sugar, no meat. People tend to grin when they hear it because there’s not much else to do. But there is quite a bit to dig your teeth into if you get through the candy coating. I was invited to visit the MFA Fine Arts program at the School of Visual Arts recently. My aim was to get a sense of the program’s diversity (current and aspirational) so I could write about it. Something I learned at SVA: Diversity is a collaboration in candy smashing. Here are some toothsome bits dug out of the saccharine rubble:

Diversity is a bunch of stuff on a studio floor you walk through to get a good look at the art. (Diversity is not always the art; art closes worlds as often as it opens them. Diversity is humble and hopeful about the possibilities of this thing called art. Diversity does not take art’s promises at face value.)

Diversity daydreams a world where artfulness is understood as necessary as food, water, air, and rent control. Diversity knows money is a legit concern.

Diversity worries about losing itself to celebrity.

Diversity is an eager MFA Fine Arts program director, brow furrowed in earnestness (but not knowing where exactly to aim it), confessing upfront “Look, I’m a straight, white guy…” (You already figured that out, but it’s appreciated and you sense he really does give a damn.)

Diversity takes field trips to border zones and meditates on the borders in itself (this meditation might result in making something or helping someone).

Diversity is a medium pyrophoric as gasoline.

Diversity has fragmented vision but is not kaleidoscopic! (Yes there is a multitude there, but it is a multitude of the same image over and over.)

Diversity is the spoiled first child of Suspicion and Intrigue.

Diversity is nervous to dress up in text and photography. Diversity is worried it plays favorites with mediums. Diversity and Intermediality are serial first-daters.

Diversity is a lifetime of awkward encounters in and out of the studio. Definitely in the gallery.

Diversity can be collaborative. Diversity can be a solo show.

Diversity is as unsure about privately funded international students as they are about themselves. They wonder: are we part of Diversity? (Diversity and Underrepresented are in an open relationship.)

Diversity can totally get down with monochrome.

Diversity is a word that by now you are tired of reading. Diversity too is tired of announcing itself, of intervening. Diversity looks forward to its first retrospective (then a party, then a hangover, then a burrito-bigger-than-its-head and a nap).

Diversity is something they try to practice in the MFA in Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts (remain critical of the white, straight guy at the helm; Diversity thinks he likes it, but even if he didn’t…) Want to help?

– Josh T. Franco


The MFA in Fine Arts at the School of Visual arts was founded in 1983 in New York City, and counts among its faculty such artists as Marilyn Minter, Fred Wilson, Laurel Nakadate, Leigh Ladare, Angel Nevarez, Dave Mackenzie, Julianne Schwartz, and Mark Tribe.

Alumni include Katherine Bernhardt, Luca Buvoli, Steve DeFrank, Inka Essenhigh, Kate Gilmore, Johan Grimonprez, Michelle Lopez, Suzanne McClelland, Steve Mumford, Erwin Redl, Sarah Sze, and Phoebe Washburn.


Josh T. Franco is a PhD candidate in Art History at Binghamton University. He is an Artist – Guide at JUDD Foundation and a regular contributor to zingmagazine. Franco has held residencies at WorkSpaceBrussels (Belgium) and the Decolonial Summer School (Middelburg, Netherlands). He has presented work at the Frick Collection; Marfa Book Company; Co-Lab artspace (Austin, Texas); the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center (San Antonio, Texas); College Art Association; the Association of Art Historians; Hemispheric Institute Graduate Student Initiative; and the Gloria E. Anzáldua Society.
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March 2, 2015

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