Tearing Down the Walls: A (Re) Invigoration of One of the Top 10 Programs

Tearing Down the Walls: A (Re) Invigoration of One of the Top 10 Programs

From my series “Affinity in the Tall Grasses of California”

As of 52 days, 9 hours and 13 minutes ago I am officially the new Graduate Ambassador for the Photography Department at Columbia College of Chicago.  This is very exciting.
That being said, my goodness, hello.  That’s me in the picture, just waking up and taking on the day.  It’s so nice that you are reading this blog!  You must be really, really interested in a) Photography and the Photographic and b) Graduate School.  How blessed we both are that you are looking at the Graduate Blog?!  Very, very blessed.  I would like to take some time on this first blog of blogs, to introduce you a little bit to my own story of why I chose Columbia and to follow up with some information about the recent changes in our Program.

Approximately 622 days, 13 hours and 22 minutes ago I had just gotten finished with an (extremely) stressful year of living and working within the medical Cannabis industry of California.  The first image above was from a series of work that I made during that time.  I’m 29 at the time (at the peak of my Saturn Returns for those who keep track of that sort of thing) and after years of living and working in California I am looking into Grad programs for art across the country.  It turns out that when you pull up the top 10 MFA programs in Photography, 2 of those places are located in Chicago.  The real kicker for me was the access to resources, people and materials which are virtually unparalleled.  Black and white and color analog darkrooms, all the digital printers in droves, a 3-D printer, experimental process lab, multiple flatbed and imacon scanners just to get started.  In addition to all of this, the Graduate room has been totally renovated.  This is our new view:

The Windy City, as seen from our Grad Room windows.

We now are a 2 year instead of a 3 year program!  While some mourn the loss of the extra year, others are finding relief in that it makes the program less expensive, and also makes for a more invigorating experience of making work.  The transition also led to a smaller, more focused incoming class.  Take a look at some of our incoming graduate students:
Grads have unanimously applauded the addition of studio spaces to our program.

One of the two graduate studio rooms.

Having a studio is important, regardless what your practice is.  It allows you to sit surrounded by your ideas or the evidence of them at least.  I am in love with mine, I’ve had a bunch of stuff on the wall from jump.  The sheer volume of stuff I’ve got is somewhat prohibitive though, I’m looking forward to catching a break after all of the festivities of the fall to go through some of what I have and sift out the chaff.

I thrive in the chaos of a messy room, and my studio is an extension of this philosophy. But I feel okay about it, because I keep reading that messiness is a sign of genius, and I’m holding onto it. For dear life.

I am likewise pleased to announce that we have a new critique space!  Where once we dispersed our work over 3 rooms, we now have a gigantic open space which serves the purpose of the previous 3 while keeping everyone’s work together.  This will be important as we move forward and develop group shows together which we are currently working on as a unit.

Anahid and George looking at work in the Critique Room.

The changes at Columbia have been in the works, and have successfully provided a new space which has brought a lot of excitement to the current student body.  As I’m sitting here drinking my coffee I’m also realizing that I think what the school has done is created a space for people to create more connection amongst each other and through our work.  Many of us are pursuing similar topics and connect intellectually but don’t always see the direct connections in our work.  I’m optimistic, as someone who is highly invested in collaborative forms of expression and artwork, that we are moving in a direction that will create increasingly autonomous governance from within the student body, directly to the program itself.  The future looks very well lit, and spacious.