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Community Arts (MFA)

Program Outline

Students are encouraged to develop their artistic voice as they simultaneously investigate the relationship of the citizen artist and art to the health and wellbeing of a community.

The 63-66 credits, two-track MFACA program combines theory, community-based practice, and interdisciplinary, independent artmaking with the ultimate goal of developing master-level thesis work.

Year 1 Residencies

The first academic year begins with an introduction to Baltimore communities including East Baltimore and the neighborhoods surrounding MICA PLACE, MFACA’s locus for operations. Additionally, students engage organizations and artists; participate in community engagement and program development training; and research and select 7½-11 month-long residencies working with community leaders, members and/or youth to conceive, implement and manage projects and programs.

As part of both Track 1 and 2 residencies students document, reflect upon and assess the effectiveness of their work in meeting community interests; gain hands-on experience in fundraising and curriculum/project planning, and determine their unique value as socially-engaged art makers.

As preparation for these long-term residencies, students are introduced to the role the visual arts can play in helping a community to articulate its identity and the impact community voice(s) can play in inspiring artistic expression. Seminars prepare students to design visual art projects that will be developed ongoing and implemented through community organizations and/or other venues in selected Baltimore communities. Additionally, students examine their appropriate role as artists from often outside the community who are seeking to work collaboratively in community settings.

Throughout these full-time residencies, students receive ongoing support and supervision by MFACA faculty. Sites for full-time residencies include arts and cultural organizations such as the education or community outreach arms of youth-service organizations, including community and youth centers and out-of-school programs, community associations, organizing and sustainability groups and educational institutions.

As a complement to residencies, students participate in seminars that support their work in the community and prepare them for their roles as professional socially engaged practitioners. In these seminars, students participate in hands-on workshops and engage in dialogues with community artists; continue to investigate socially engaged art forms; write grants and design assessment strategies; and make their own community-inspired artwork, including site-specific installations, performance pieces, videos, oral history documentaries, special events, murals and other collaborative ventures. Documentation of fieldwork and students' own art becomes part of their professional portfolios.

Track 1

MFACA students who are eligible may choose to conduct Track 1 residencies as members of AmeriCorps, the nation's national service program, pending availability of funding. Students opting for Track 1 AmeriCorps residencies serve 32-hour-per-week in a community, usually with one partner. Student eligibility for AmeriCorps is determined by MICA's CAC manager during the MFACA application process. Participation in AmeriCorps comes with unique benefits and responsibilities, including a living allowance and an education award. Track #1 students who are not eligible for or wish not to join AmeriCorps (but intend to emphasize teaching in a community) work 22 hours per week.

Track 2

MFACA students who wish to emphasize their own art making by designing and implementing arts-based art projects, programs, happenings and/or events that support community-based building, organizing, advocacy, activism and other “change initiatives” may opt for Track 2. These students serve 22-hours-per-week residencies in the community with one or more partners, October through early-May. Students opting for Track 2 receive comparable faculty oversight as do Track 1 students. Track 2 students are ineligible and cannot join AmeriCorps, but are expected to participate in Seminar I & II trainings.

Second Year Curriculum

During the second academic year, MFACA students place special emphasis upon their own artmaking practices in relationship to the community. A thesis committee comprised of MFACA faculty critically assesses the development of each student's thesis on an ongoing basis. Assuming appropriate completion of all required curriculum, MFACA students participate in a preliminary review of their thesis at the end of the second fall semester and a final review of their thesis at the end of the second spring semester. The review committee is comprised of the graduate faculty of acknowledged professional stature. To receive an MFACA degree, each student must prepare and implement a written report and artist's talk or presentation. All of the review committee's members must agree that the thesis meets high professional standards of excellence commensurate with the M.F.A in both form and content, and constitutes a significant, original body of research.

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