The MFA in Community Arts (MFACA) program serves artists for whom community arts-based or community-collaborative activities are integral to their personal artmaking practice. The MFACA combines the skills, knowledge, and competencies with the intensive creative practice necessary for artists to realize and refine their personal artistic voice, undertake research on individual and community-based content, and develop new art forms. In theory and practice, the MFACA is grounded in the principles of social justice.
The 63-66 credit MFACA combines a year of theory and community-based practice with a year of independent community-based artmaking practice with the goal of developing a thesis project. Students are encouraged to develop their own voice as they simultaneously investigate the relationship of the citizen artist and art to community building. This is accomplished through dialogue with community members and leaders, policy makers, nonprofit organizations, and professional community artists along with the integration of individual production, service to community and theory. Real-world experiences are supported by classroom study of community arts theory and practice and work in the studio. These investigations prepare students to develop proposals for and implement their own community arts projects.
The first academic year starts with an introduction to Baltimore artists, communities and organizations; community engagement and program oversight training; and the selection of 9-11 month long residency sites where students work with community leaders to conceive, implement, and manage projects and programs that engage youth and adults in meaningful art experiences; design and implement projects and events that support community initiatives; document and assess the effectiveness of their projects in meeting community interests; gain hands-on experience in fundraising and curriculum planning; and determine their unique value as public/community artmakers.
As preparation for these long-term residencies, students are introduced to the role the visual arts can play in helping a community articulate its identity and the role community voices can play in inspiring artistic expression. Seminars prepare students to design visual art projects for youth and adults that will be implemented through community organizations in selected Baltimore communities. Additionally, students examine their appropriate role as artists from outside the community who are seeking to work collaboratively in community settings.
Throughout the full-time residency, students receive ongoing support and supervision by MFACA faculty. Sites for the full-time residencies include arts and cultural organizations such as the education or community outreach arms of faith-based and youth-service organizations, including community and youth centers and out-of-school programs, community associations, and educational institutions.
As a complement to the full-time residency, students participate in seminars that support their work in community and prepare them for their roles as professional community arts practitioners. In these seminars, students prepare case studies, participate in hands-on workshops, and engage in dialogues with community artists; continue to investigate community-based art forms; write grants and design assessment strategies; and make their own community-inspired artwork, including site-specific installations, performance pieces, videos, oral history documentaries, special events, murals and other collaborative ventures. Documentation of fieldwork and students' own art will become part of students' professional portfolios.
MFACA students who are eligible may choose to conduct their residencies as members of AmeriCorps, the nation's national service program, pending availability of funding. Student eligibility for AmeriCorps is determined by MICA's Community Art Collaborative (CAC) Coordinator during the MFACA application process. Participation in AmeriCorps comes with unique benefits and responsibilities, including a living allowance and an education award. Upon admission to the program, an AmeriCorps-eligible MFACA student may choose to participate in AmeriCorps or to conduct the residency outside of AmeriCorps. Note: MFA students in the AmeriCorps program will need the summer between the two years to complete the required hours of service.
The MFACA program utilizes a pass/fail grading system in all of its courses. Individual assignments may receive letter grades. MFACA students are evaluated on their ability to translate the information provided into advanced skills, knowledge, and competencies and apply these abilities to the design, implementation, and management of programming in community. Emphasis is placed on each student's willingness to fully engage the subject matter; ability to articulate their own ideas, beliefs, and findings; meet set deadlines; assist fellow students with their own learning; take healthy "learning risks"; and actively participate in classroom discussions and activities. The program reserves the right to discontinue students who do not demonstrate behaviors and attitudes consistent with the program's goals.
MFACA students are expected to have access to a car or readily accessible mode of transportation for traveling to and from their residences, MICA's campus, community residency sites, and other off-campus functions.
During the second academic year, MFACA students place special emphasis upon the incorporation of community-based initiatives into their own studio practice. A thesis committee comprised of MFACA faculty critically assesses the development of each student's thesis on an ongoing basis. Assuming appropriate completion of all required curriculum, MFACA students have a preliminary review of their thesis at the end of the second fall semester and a final review of their thesis at the end of the second spring semester. The review committee is comprised of the graduate faculty of acknowledged professional stature. In order for the candidate to be awarded the MFACA degree, each student must prepare and implement an artist's talk or presentation. All of the review committee's members must agree that the thesis meets high professional standards of excellence commensurate with the MFA in both form and content, and constitutes a significant, original body of research.
Additionally, as more colleges and universities pursue the development of their own community arts programs, highly trained faculty members are required. Therefore, MFACA students are eligible to earn MICA's certificate in the College Teaching of Art. This certificate requires an extra 3 credits in Philosophy and Pedagogy plus three successful Teaching Internships (TIs). One or two TI's may be waived in light of first year community-based residencies.
Students who have already completed the MACA program in previous years may apply and, if accepted, return for the second year. It is recommended that graduates of MACA consider returning for the MFA within five years.