For many MFA graduate students, having a dedicated studio space is an unaffordable luxury. Day-to-day costs of living and thriving in an arts program, coupled with costs of living, doesn’t leave much time or money left over to underwrite a working artists’ studio. In Columbia’s InterArts program, both Media and Book and Paper MFAs have access to shared studio spaces in the buildings where most of the classes are located. The shared spaces make it just a bit easier to store art materials, work on projects in process, and shed coats and boots over the long winter as they head into classes.
Every spring after the MFA Thesis Exhibition opens, the “Studio Lottery” day is announced. Before the lottery, all students heading into their Thesis year receive detailed information about the process and assignments to be developed over the summer. The assignments are designed to put each student on the track to research and organize what they are planning for thesis, and help them schedule their summer to make the most of the facilities. All continuing MFAs have access to the paper, print, and bindery areas over the summer, as well as access to check out media equipment from the department’s equipment center.
Once the nuts and bolts of the (sometimes dreaded) “Thesis Prep Talk” are over, all faculty and students convene in the 916 building Gathering Space for the infamous “Studio Lottery.” Names are put in a hat (or box, or shoe, whatever works!) in order of seniority, and pulled out by a faculty member. There’s plenty of joking around and jockeying for position, as students pair or triple up, and choose the spaces they feel will best suit their needs. “With such a large group moving through the program, the studio lottery ensures that everyone has an equal chance to take advantage of the spaces that InterArts provides,” says Associate Chair Paul Catenese.
After this year’s lottery, a number of the MFAs toured the final Space and Place Installations in the 916 S Wabash Installation rooms. First-year (soon to be second year) Book and Paper MFA Heather Buechler said, “I enjoyed going to see what the folks in Space and Place have been up to all year. We each become immersed in our own coursework, and it’s great to break out and go see work by fellow MFAs in courses I haven’t taken. And, who knows? It’s also good to know what kinds of skills and concepts others are working through. That can spark me to think of working with them going forward into year two!”
The current Space and Place installations by Grayson Bagwell and Chelsey Shilling will be on view through this week on the second floor of 916 S. Wabash Avenue. Upcoming Space and Place installations will be announced soon.