December 16, 2015

MFA program

Otis College of Art and Design
Andrea Bowers, Educate, Agitate, Organize, 2010. Channel letter signs: low voltage LED lights, plexiglass, aluminum, each sign: 27 x 66 x 5.5 inches.

Engage the world and create social change through the arts

Join us for a two-year MFA program at Otis College of Art and Design and put your principles into action.

If you aspire to change and engage the world through your art, this is the only accredited program in the Southern California region dedicated exclusively to providing artists with advanced skills in social practice art.

Ours is a community of dedicated artist/scholars—faculty and students—who work across disciplines in an exploratory fashion. In their practices, both faculty and students engage particular audiences and communities in collaborative processes to identify key issues, promote public discourse, and catalyze social change within specific Institutions, neighborhoods, and other public contexts. Working across disciplines, our students combine object making, performance, research, writing, tactical media, or community organizing in projects that integrate studio art practices with social engagement.

Los Angeles is the dynamic setting for this program, but the world is our campus: students are positioned as emerging professionals within a global geography and given opportunities to travel in our noted First Year Project, Otis Study Abroad classes, and field mentorships with outstanding international artists. Students learn by doing, in cultures as diverse as hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, a Central Valley farming town, downtown LA immigrant communities, or a rural region slated for urban development on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

We offer broad latitude for individual interests by supporting both individual and collaborative modes of art production.  Students design individual educational plans that include community-based and studio art, history and theory, augmented by a menu of elective courses in digital media, performance, photography, sculpture, video, design and writing.

Under the leadership of Suzanne Lacy, renowned artist, educator, and theorist of socially engaged art, highly respected professional faculty and guests teach in classroom settings, in studio critiques, and in the field. The long list of stellar international professionals who have participated in the program includes MacArthur Fellow Rick Lowe; curators Sally Tallant from the Liverpool Biennial and Karen Moss; theorists Bill Kelley Jr. and Steven Wright from Paris; community activists Sara Daleiden and Patrice Cullers, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; and internationally known artists Jeanne Van Heeswik, Pablo Helguera, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and Andrea Bowers.

In the eight years of our existence, our students have connected artistic practices to notions of public commentary, community formation, activism, engaged learning, and forms of collaboration as they explore a deeply participatory art that often flourishes outside the gallery and museum system. Our mission is to prepare artists to contribute to equitable and pluralistic societies through art production, collaboration, and working with communities.

We are proud of the many ways in which our alumni contribute to shaping new notions of public practice and equity, including artists like Christina Sanchez Juarez (MFA 2012), who works with restaurant workers in an ongoing collaboration with the Los Angeles chapter of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United; Jules Rochielle Sievert (MFA 2009), who works with female veterans at the Harlem Vet Center through a residency from the New York City mayor’s office; and Mobil Mural Lab (Roberto Del Hoyo, MFA 2010, and David Russell, MFA 2011), which collaborates with youth organizations nationally on civic space education. For more information on our alumni, click here.



Call for applications: MFA program at Otis College of Art and Design

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