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SUNY Purchase--best kept MFA secret


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Hello All,  

I looked at this board frequently when applying to MFA programs last year and loved all the great information and mutual support.  I thought I'd report back as someone who was recently on the front lines and who made a choice not to go to the higher prestige schools I was admitted to and how it is going so far.

I am three weeks into my MFA program at SUNY Purchase and I could not be more thrilled with my decision.

My rationale for choosing Purchase over CCA and U of TN (printmaking only) among other schools is this:

-cost.  Even out of state tuition is reasonable compared to $45K/year and _everyone_ gets some sort of help.  My entire degree will cost me $15-20K as an out of state student.

-The new MFA program director is Sr. Editor of Art in America and a critic, historian and curator in her own right.  The visiting artists she brings in for studio visits and lectures (1 day-5 week appointments) are amazing. Michael St John, who has an incredible eye, is running our critique sessions this semester and next semester we have Sarah Oppenheimer.  

-small, x-diciplinary program.  Eight students in my class. However because Purchase has a huge undergraduate arts program the faculty expertise you can draw on is deep and wide.  Easy access to metal, wood, print, ceramics workshops--all in the same building as your grad studio which is only 100 yards from where you park your car (take note of this is you make big/heavy things!).  Very easy to pick up new skills. (Chicago and CCA--the print and metal shops were in separate buildings and even separate cities with zero parking. ugh)

-Faculty actually love working with grad students.  

-Purchase is about a 45 minute train commute to Grand Central.  About half the students live in the city and half in Westchester County.  The grads form a very tight community. Every Friday we are in the city doing studio visits with artists, meeting with gallerists, collectors, curators, etc.  Excellent exposure to the largest and most competitive art market in the world.

-For those who want to teach you can be running your own classes as early as your second semester--great resume/experience builder for that incredibly competitive art life path.

You will get into tantalizing institutions with huge price tags.  Some of them will be worth it.  Some of them will not. SUNY Purchase wants as little of your money as they can get away with and they deploy every resource within reach to help you become the best artist you can be.

Feel free to ping me if you have questions.




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  • 3 months later...

I've completed my first full semester at Purchase and thought I'd provide an update on my experience.  

-I continue to find the faculty to be very supportive.  As I mentioned to someone in private correspondence, it is easy to reach out and invite faculty you don't even know for a studio and they show up.  I've heard of some schools where faculty can be standoffish or outright inaccessible.  During my end-of-semester review there were several faculty I had not met and hadn't even heard of (its a huge art department).  Two of them approached _me_ to do a studio visit with me.  I'm so delighted to find this level of support and interest.  

-I'm really impressed by my fellow students.  No, not everyone produces great work all the time.  But it is an environment where you can produce a big stinker, your effort is acknowledged, and you are encouraged to continue.  This is not to say that you'll get away with poor work or not trying. There are unique personalities but no one is difficult or back biting.  Faculty do help students get shows but more important _students_ help each other get into shows, meet people, and otherwise improve the visibility of their work. Overall students are very supportive of each other and the second years get huge props for reaching out repeatedly to first years.  It matters.

Several of you from this board have reached out to me privately and I invite anyone to do so.  One concern commonly voiced is the quality of the work in the online school gallery and the quality of the overall school website.  The website sucks.  There are efforts to fix it but as this is a state school money is an issue.  As far as the gallery goes, the overwhelming  majority of work displayed is _undergraduate_ so it is very difficult to see what the grad students are up to.  Hopefully this will be fixed soon.

Best of luck out there.  If you can commit to the time and focus, art school is great. 



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