Interdisciplinary Arts & Media MFA
I’m BJ Allen and I’m a third-year student in Columbia College Chicago’s Interdisciplinary Arts & Media, MFA Program
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE DOING BEFORE YOU CAME TO COLUMBIA.
After spending much of my adult life in San Francisco working a variety of jobs, I decided to get serious about what I’d always been doing outside of work – art. I had really run the gamut from being a classically trained vocalist, then singer-songwriter, photographer, video artist – I even directed a television show for a while that showcased local bands, which was amazingly fun. Finally I decided that enough was enough and I needed to make a career in art. I moved to New Mexico and found an interdisciplinary arts program, and finished my BFA in 2013.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE COLUMBIA FOR YOUR GRADUATE STUDY?
There were several roads that led to Columbia. First was that my sound art professor in New Mexico spoke highly of it. He was into all kinds of programming using open source code, and was clearly on top of the contemporary art scene, so I trusted his opinion. Second was that I went on a trip to the Midwest to look at schools and heard Paul Catanese, the program director for the Interdisciplinary Arts & Media, MFA program, speak at the International Sculpture Conference, which happened to be in Chicago that year. I had heard his name through the New Media Caucus, a College Art Association affiliated group that I joined as an undergrad. When I heard him speak at the conference, I knew I wanted to study with him. His perspective on art was incredibly thoughtful and forward-thinking. And finally, when I visited other schools, their culture of interdisciplinary art just wasn’t very developed or seemed like an afterthought to traditional fine arts. Columbia had a long history in interdisciplinary art, yet also seemed to be on the cutting edge. I was absolutely right, everyone in my program really knows how to create and critique art from am extremely informed perspective, no matter what the media. To say that we push the envelope is an understatement.
TELL US ABOUT A PROJECT YOU’RE WORKING ON THAT YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT.
I’m currently working on my thesis project, which we focus on for a year. Almost as soon as the class ahead of us graduated, we (the class of 2016) started getting questions and advice. Everyone really invests a lot in the thesis students. Right now, I’m working out both the concept and materials I’m going to use by doing a lot of research and sketching. Since I’ve been studying here, I’ve done a few sculptural installations that use video, sound, interactivity, and kinetics, and I’ve been exploring technologies like 3D printing, micro controllers, and laser cutting. I tend to find inspiration in a wide variety of areas that generate from places like my emotions, my neighborhood, and… particle physics. And politics. I am really excited to go through this whole process. I feel like I have been very well prepared by the rigorous education I’ve received here, both in art theory as well as by learning all kinds of new methods and materials to work with.