I have been getting a lot of questions recently about how my graduate art program is going and how I am adjusting to being a student again. It is difficult in the moment to summarize my thoughts and experiences thus far so I figured it would be easier to explain if I put it in to words.
For starters, I started my graduate MFA program at Radford University this fall. It was a huge life decision for it required me to leave a full time teaching job, to move to a new city even farther away from friends and family, for my boyfriend to find a new job and move with me, and it also put me in a student role again, with no steady income as I near my 30th birthday. To say that there was a lot of risk is an understatement.
Now as far as the program is going... Overall things are going well. I am enjoying being a part of critiques again where my art is the topic of discussion, the intellectual and creative stimulation, and being in a creative environment with others. My advisor is awesome and challenges my art making process in a way where I feel like I have already shown development and growth in the short amount of time since I have started. Additionally, I have received a graduate assistantship for this first semester which has helped me financially and so far has been manageable time wise. I often get asked why I chose Radford as the school to attain my MFA in studio art. While the reasons are complex, one of them is that I thought I would have a greater chance due to the size of the program to receive such assistantships earlier on in the program. So naturally, I am happy to see that this component of my decision is already paying off. Another development is that I have joined the Graduate Art Student Association and have been assigned a position to secure off campus venues for exhibition opportunities for the organization. As a practicing artist, I have been able to share a range of exhibition opportunities that I already keep an eye on and am now looking for spaces that we may be able to exhibit as a group. I should also mention that I have a full academic schedule of 15 credits. While they recommend starting with 9 and market the program as a 2 year timeline, I have since learned that it is not the "norm" to actually complete the program in that time and students often take 3 years. This is not an option for me mentally or financially, so I am scheduling my courses in order to complete the program in 2 years and by golly I plan to stick to that. I am also trying to facilitate all of this while continuing doing exhibitions, festivals, shows, and online sales. Of course I lightened my participation in these things this fall so that I could adjust but 2019 will be full speed ahead. I have tuition bills to pay after all!
On the flipside, there have been some negatives. The increase of expectations placed on me and financial stress has naturally caused my anxiety to surge. I find myself having to increase my medications and using weekends as mental health days whenever I can so that I can manage, maintain, and reset. So far no panic attacks which is great. I am staying aware and giving myself permission for these shifts so I think that helps reduce panic risks. Additionally I am NOT a fan of having to write papers in various citations again. For one thing, it is extremely odd having to go from grading papers to writing them and being graded. Secondly, having to retake art history courses that cover topics I have already taught about myself and then having to write time consuming citation based papers on them is not my favorite way of spending my evenings. Lastly, I would say that the commute from Roanoke to Radford is starting to wear on me. I still prefer to live here versus Radford, but the 45 minutes spent in the car on I81 aka the scariest road on earth is less than ideal.
As far as the art making is concerned, things are really moving. I have started a new body of work that is informed by the philosophy and psychology of expectations. I am interested in how expectations can impact our choices, perceptions, and opinions in addition to understanding where these expectations come from. The work is engaging the viewer through visual challenges of what they might expect to see within the context of certain subject matter. I am still working with mixed media and combing collage with drawing and painting, but the compositions have opened up a lot.
Overall, the positives are certainly outweighing the negatives. I look forward to banging out this last month of work and bringing my first semester to a close. I appreciate everyone who has been asking about me and checking on my progress.