Being an MFA candidate does not mean that you are simply a student.

As artist we are always learning something. Whether it is new ways to do something, new materials to use, or new ways to promote and market our work, we are always on a journey to find something new in our art. This has been part of being an artist for as long as we have had fine art.

There was a time in art, when emerging and established artists were not just required to improve, but also expected to study beyond just what they have learned before. During the Enlightenment artist like Diego Velazquez would take time to travel to other countries and study new forms of making art. During their journeys while they were studying they were still considered to be well-established or master artists. This tradition of the artists going back to or even continuing their professional study would continue until the 1920’s were we start to see a change in the idea of the MFA or studying of art in a formal setting from being a furthering for artists to simply a institutional program for people to learn art.

In this day of mass media and the internet it is more important for artists to explore new venues to go with their work, new medias and materials to try and even new styles of work to combine with their style or creating work. But for many there is this stigma that going back to school to learn a new skill or to expand your understanding of an idea will reduce you as an artist.

More people are required to expand not just their minds but their ability to understand more, this can come in many forms, but none so strong as continuing their education. For some it is a means to learn a new skill, for others they are trying to advance their carriers as art educators, and yet for others it is simply a means to be able to teach at the university level. But if we continue to put stigmas that further development makes you less, than how can we expect the art world to grow?

As an emerging international artist who has had exhibits in China, Korea, New York, Paris, Zurich, Madrid, and London but is also going back for his MFA to learn a new skill and with hopes of teaching at a university I face these stigmas all the time. When people hear that I am working on an MFA they tend to look past the fact that I have had solo and group shows not just in galleries but also museums around the world, that my works are in permanent collections of galleries, hotels, libraries and universities around Asia and in New York, that I belong to professional artists associations, and have won awards for my art, and that I have been featured in newspapers, magazines and on television in China and New York. To them all of that does not matter because I am going for my MFA.

If a businessman goes back to school to learn a new form of accounting or management he is sharpening his skills. If a doctor goes back to school to learn a new technique or equipment he is being on the cutting edge. But if an artist goes back to school to learn a new technique, equipment or style he is a student? Being that academies of art were some of the first universities in the world, it is sad that we place them on such a low plane in this day and age of advancement.

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