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How important is location? (another "which school should I choose" question)


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I've applied to and been accepted to several grad schools (for an MA), both art history and curatorial studies programs, but i'm kind of torn. Context - i'm interested in modern and contemporary art, but don't have a super specific focus. My hope is to one day have a curatorial role at a museum.

Right now i'm kind of torn between UT Austin and Hunter for their art history master's programs. I do really like the program structure (from what i can see on the websites) and the faculty for both schools. Both also offer curatorial/museum studies certificates which interests me. I'm an out of state applicant at both schools, but UT offered me a small scholarship, in addition to waiving my the out of state portion of tuition, bringing yearly tuition to about $10K a year. Hunter would be about $20k/year for me. (I'm also strongly considering SAIC which would be a bit more than Hunter, but maybe would be offset by cheaper COL?)

The main reason I'm so torn is that I feel like I would have many more professional opportunities during school in NY or Chicago than I would in Austin. I think UT has a great program with a good reputation, but I've noticed there are many more modern/contemporary museum curators with MAs from Hunter and SAIC than UT (though I've seen a couple). On a personal note, I'm from NY so most of my family and many of my friends are there, and I honestly wasn't a huge fan of Austin when I visited, but I figure this is probably something I can handle for 2 years. Is location a big enough factor to warrant paying $10k more a year? I know it's a personal choice but I'd like to hear some of your takes on it. 

Also, does anyone have any insight into any of these programs? Anything would be much appreciated. 

Edited by anaisgin
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Hi there!

I got my undergrad degree at UT and now live in NYC. I have no idea if you will actually enjoy living in Austin, but here are a few things that you might consider:

COL: Austin has a much cheaper cost of living. Of course housing, but truly everything. The thing I miss most about it is how cheap my grocery bill was compared to NYC (seriously, you will save thousands of dollars on food).

Art culture: Of course Austin does not compare to NYC’s unparalleled art scene, but Austin is a great place to be for modern and contemporary, specifically. The Blanton Museum of Art has an awesome collection, graduate students are constantly involved there, and all of the curators are very very nice and would love to help you grow. 

Weather: this one might seem silly, but this was a huge factor for me. I have lived in Texas for my entire life, and I got to the point where I just could not live with the constant heat anymore. It’s hot in the summer, winter, ALL THE TIME. If you don’t mind this, then disregard, but it can get extremely taxing after a while. 

Overall, I personally think that it’s best to get your MA at the school that will leave you in the best position financially. If you want to be a curator, you will likely need a PhD, and it matters much more where you go for that than MA. If you really can’t see yourself in Austin, or if you think you will suffer there, then don’t go. Otherwise, I think it’s the right choice.

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I'm also deciding on Hunter and trying to work out if moving to NYC is a truly viable option. 

That said, I don't think a Ph.D. is necessary for becoming a museum curator, I know a number of professional curators who do not have a Ph.D. 

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