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Tufts or UC Irvine or Hunter?


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Hey all,

I'm pretty torn in this decision. I applied to both art history and curatorial studies programs. I'm interested in contemporary art and intend to pursue a curatorial career, whater in a traditional museum or alternative art space. I'm not certain if I intend on going into a PhD program at some point but wouldn't write it off completely. Bard was my first choice but I have been waitlisted and it's getting more unreasonable to expect any substantial funding even if I miracoulously make it off the waitlist.  

I got into Tufts for art history and museum studies with a scholarships the covers half of the tuition, so with living expenses i would have to make up a difference of around $30k. I got accepted to Hunter with no word yet on scholarships or aid but I would be able to live with my parents and the scheduling would allow me to get a job or internship and pay the (somewhat) afforadable in state tuition. 

I also got accepted to UC Irvine's MFA program in critical and curatorial studies. It is 3 years and considered an MFA because it really encouraging dialogue and working w art students. I recieved full funding, TAships, and a $3k stipend for research and curating. Honestly it is an incredible offer but I am a bit worried about having an MFA rather than MA and location is not ideal. 

There is also SFAI that is potentially providing full tuition and the program is in exhibition and museum studies. I would have to find a way to make up for high living expenses in SF.

I super drawn to Tufts but can't help feeling that taking out a $30k loan when I have a fully funded offer is a horrible idea. Hunter feels like a good in between but I'm not sure what to do. 

I would appreciate any or all advice! 

Edited by artdog
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I think a lot of this decision is going to come down to what you are willing to/not willing to sacrifice to get the degree. Personally, I wouldn't be able to navigate that 30K loan gracefully with a fully funded offer also in place.

What makes you concerned about the MFA? I've noticed in my internships and other jobs that a lot of contemporary curators come from non-traditional backgrounds. I think working directly with artists and critical dialogue will likely be a help for you rather than a hindrance. Specifically, when talking about curating contemporary art, the practice is much more nebulous than someone who specializes in Roman Art/European Modernism, etc.  Also, this is a degree offered through UC Irvine which is already a reputable and respected institution. It's not like you'd be attending some random no-name school coming out with a funky MFA.  I wouldn't write it off so quickly - I think it would be worthwhile for you to explore that option a bit more.

When it comes down to it, though, you have to follow your gut. I've heard an overwhelming amount of advisors and colleagues tell me to never consider taking out loans for the MA, but you have to decide what is most important to YOU, not anyone else. If UC Irvine is just not your place, then boot it off your list and start looking at the other choices you have. Have you spoken to any recent alumni if those programs? That might be a good next step for you because you can get a feel for how the program operates at each institution, and how that kind of program might impact you better/worse than the others. Gathering as much information as possible will likely help you make a more informed decision. It might also be helpful to ask program advisors/directors where recent graduates have ended up in the last few years. (I.e., did they get curatorial positions in museums? Move on to PhD programs? exit the industry? etc.) 

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"It might also be helpful to ask program advisors/directors where recent graduates have ended up in the last few years. (I.e., did they get curatorial positions in museums? Move on to PhD programs? exit the industry? etc.)"

This. There seem to be a lot of Hunter M.A. grads who have curatorial positions. So, if that's what you're seeking, Hunter might be a great option. If you decide to pursue a PhD in art history later on having an MFA could make your application process more challenging. While many programs now recognize the benefits of MFA-->PhD candidates,  more traditional schools may not be as accommodating. Also: I will be firm in saying do not take out an exorbitant amount of debt for your M.A. unless you have someone (parent, partner) who can support you after graduation, or you're willing to work outside the field. Not only are jobs few and far between, but they often don't pay well. (Just my opinion, though!)

 

Congrats on your three acceptances--that's super exciting! 

Edited by Noscrubs
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A lot of people in the Hunter MA do get into curatorial positions; many even get curatorial positions or move on professionally during attendance that they never finish the thesis. I've discussed the benefits of Hunter in another thread, but I will add that you should not expect any funding from Hunter, save perhaps on reimbursement for any conferences you travel to or if you are able to get the Kossacks Travel Grant.

I cannot speak on Tufts, but my correspondence and relationships with students at UC Irvine has been really fantastic. The Haunt Journal of Art, published there, is one of the greatest new journals to come out from a contemporary art department in recent years, and I really trust their program. Also, if you can get in touch with Rhea Anastas as UCI then you basically have one of the best teachers and knowledge bases for curatorial studies and contemporary art as you would at Hunter or Bard CCS (where she once taught and lectured years ago). She is currently working on a book about Orchard Gallery, and is a huge source for curatorial practices. Do not worry about the MFA designation, because directors and curatorial departments know of the reputation UCI has and is building. 

Best of luck! 

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On 3/16/2018 at 5:51 AM, ReichenbachFalls said:

I think a lot of this decision is going to come down to what you are willing to/not willing to sacrifice to get the degree. Personally, I wouldn't be able to navigate that 30K loan gracefully with a fully funded offer also in place.

What makes you concerned about the MFA? I've noticed in my internships and other jobs that a lot of contemporary curators come from non-traditional backgrounds. I think working directly with artists and critical dialogue will likely be a help for you rather than a hindrance. Specifically, when talking about curating contemporary art, the practice is much more nebulous than someone who specializes in Roman Art/European Modernism, etc.  Also, this is a degree offered through UC Irvine which is already a reputable and respected institution. It's not like you'd be attending some random no-name school coming out with a funky MFA.  I wouldn't write it off so quickly - I think it would be worthwhile for you to explore that option a bit more.

When it comes down to it, though, you have to follow your gut. I've heard an overwhelming amount of advisors and colleagues tell me to never consider taking out loans for the MA, but you have to decide what is most important to YOU, not anyone else. If UC Irvine is just not your place, then boot it off your list and start looking at the other choices you have. Have you spoken to any recent alumni if those programs? That might be a good next step for you because you can get a feel for how the program operates at each institution, and how that kind of program might impact you better/worse than the others. Gathering as much information as possible will likely help you make a more informed decision. It might also be helpful to ask program advisors/directors where recent graduates have ended up in the last few years. (I.e., did they get curatorial positions in museums? Move on to PhD programs? exit the industry? etc.) 

@ReichenbachFalls Thank you so much for this thoughtful reply! I guess I am mostly hesitant because I don't want to write off my chances of working at one of the "big" institutions, as far-fetched as this goal is. I am interested in ideas of non-traditional curating but in my ideal world I would be able to implement these notions within a well-established institution. I was reading that these curatorial positions are often reserved for candidates with a PhD or at least an MA, so I don't know what that means in terms of an MFA. But I do think you're right a contemporary curator is fairly different from someone who specializes in Roman art/European Modernism, etc. 

I have started to figure out answers for some of the questions you posed and have been getting some super helpful feedback so thank you again!! 

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14 hours ago, grain of salt said:

A lot of people in the Hunter MA do get into curatorial positions; many even get curatorial positions or move on professionally during attendance that they never finish the thesis. I've discussed the benefits of Hunter in another thread, but I will add that you should not expect any funding from Hunter, save perhaps on reimbursement for any conferences you travel to or if you are able to get the Kossacks Travel Grant.

I cannot speak on Tufts, but my correspondence and relationships with students at UC Irvine has been really fantastic. The Haunt Journal of Art, published there, is one of the greatest new journals to come out from a contemporary art department in recent years, and I really trust their program. Also, if you can get in touch with Rhea Anastas as UCI then you basically have one of the best teachers and knowledge bases for curatorial studies and contemporary art as you would at Hunter or Bard CCS (where she once taught and lectured years ago). She is currently working on a book about Orchard Gallery, and is a huge source for curatorial practices. Do not worry about the MFA designation, because directors and curatorial departments know of the reputation UCI has and is building. 

Best of luck! 

@grain of salt Thank you for the reply!  I didn't realize that Hunter was not so helpful in terms of funding and that definitely is something to consider. 

That is helpful to know about UCI, the program is fairly new so it has been a bit difficult to amass information on it and it's standing outside of the school, not that this is the main factor in my decision but I will admit is something that crosses my mind. Will definitely look further into her work! 

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