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How old is too old to pursue an MFA??


Inky

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Hi all!

I'm thinking about applying MFA programs in fine art at the ancient age of 40, and am trying to decide whether or not I am insane. : )

I do have a BFA, but I'd gotten away from doing art for many years. I now have a small studio and have been making work pretty seriously and participating in juried shows for the past several years. My primary focus is printmaking, but I also do other works on paper (painting/drawing).

So: would it be nuts to attend grad school for fine art in my early 40s? I'm married, no kids, good health, financially stable, live in New York. My goals would be 1) most importantly, to have a context in which to take my work to a higher level, 2) to learn more about how the art world works, make connections, etc, and 3) to get the credential to teach, in case I should want to (I'm not proud: I'd happily teach at a community college or high school, and I do realize that even those jobs are hard to come by).

I'm just starting to think about this process, so any thoughts, advice, or insight would be highly appreciated!!

Inky

(Note: sorry about the cross-post: this is my first posting, and I'd originally published it in the wrong forum.)

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I would say go for it! Taking into consideration two things:

1. I'd only go if it were fully funded - tuition waiver + stipend.

2. You mentioned teaching after the degree - but do you have a solid backup plan? If it doesn't work out, can you return to the job you have now? (I know, impossible question to answer!) I guess a better question would be: would you be satisfied to return to the job you have now?

You sound like you've been a successful independent artist - so I think that you would be remiss not to apply! :)

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Hi all!

I'm thinking about applying MFA programs in fine art at the ancient age of 40, and am trying to decide whether or not I am insane. : )

I do have a BFA, but I'd gotten away from doing art for many years. I now have a small studio and have been making work pretty seriously and participating in juried shows for the past several years. My primary focus is printmaking, but I also do other works on paper (painting/drawing).

So: would it be nuts to attend grad school for fine art in my early 40s? I'm married, no kids, good health, financially stable, live in New York. My goals would be 1) most importantly, to have a context in which to take my work to a higher level, 2) to learn more about how the art world works, make connections, etc, and 3) to get the credential to teach, in case I should want to (I'm not proud: I'd happily teach at a community college or high school, and I do realize that even those jobs are hard to come by).

I'm just starting to think about this process, so any thoughts, advice, or insight would be highly appreciated!!

Inky

(Note: sorry about the cross-post: this is my first posting, and I'd originally published it in the wrong forum.)

I started my MFA (well it's a pseudo MFA,) at 40 and finished it a few days before I turned 43. My mother started her MFA at the age of 50. I can't really tell you what the long-term impact of it was, as I only finished in May. As for my mother, she doesn't really have to work anyway, and the fact that she went to a state school minimized the financial end of it.

But if you want to teach, I would think it's a smart move. I see a lot of "MFA or equivalent" requirements posted on job listings.

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Talk to people at the places you might potentially apply - I think it's more to do with them and the fit with your work than with any concrete, universal age requirement. Take Ed Fella, for instance - he's a designer, but a great example of the "late plan" working out nicely. He started his MFA at age 47 (at Cranbrook) and still teaches now (at CalArts). Let us know what you decide... best of luck!

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If you can make it work...do it. I'm 34 and I'm planning on enrolling in a three-year MFA for printmaking (BFA in painting) if I can get accepted somewhere. I'm not applying until next year to begin in the Fall of 2012. I'll turn 36 a few weeks into the first semester. I'm applying to state schools only. I don't think expensive private schools are worth the debt if I have to return to my career as a bartender. I don't think you are ever to old to return. You have to do it to get the teaching credential, and it is very hard to get any constructive criticism unless you live in a strong artistic community.

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My goals would be 1) most importantly, to have a context in which to take my work to a higher level, 2) to learn more about how the art world works, make connections, etc, and 3) to get the credential to teach, in case I should want to (I'm not proud: I'd happily teach at a community college or high school, and I do realize that even those jobs are hard to come by).

If it's really about deepening and enriching your practice, I'd say go for it. Remember that getting an MFA is not a golden ticket. It can certainly help with making connections, but very few people are fortunate enough to be considered "successful" in the art world. I don't mean to be discouraging — I just think that career ambition is the wrong reason to get a studio art MFA. IMO you're better off focusing on developing a fulfilling and sustainable studio practice. Then external validation is icing on the cake.

My studiomate did his MFA after 50. He has definitely benefitted from the degree in many ways (both inside and outside of the studio), but he still struggles like the rest of us and he's far from what you'd consider "established." He shows his work a few times a year, volunteers as a projectionist once a week at an experimental theater, and teaches the occasional weekend workshop. He's a naturally avuncular guy, and was often mistaken for a teacher on campus. Now that he's out of school, most of his colleagues are around 20 years younger than him.

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