October 13, 2021

MFA in Environmental Art and Social Practice

University of California, Santa Cruz

Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle, Green Wedding, 2008. Performance, Santa Cruz, CA. Photo: Lydia Diller and Danielle Barnett.

The Environmental Art and Social Practice MFA program (EASP) at the University of California (UC), Santa Cruz, welcomes applications now for admission in the fall of 2022.

We are honored to be working with the first cohort of extraordinary students this fall, and we are excited to invite a second cohort to join us next year as we continue to build the EASP learning and research community. The linked urgencies of systemic social inequality and climate crises drive our research, our curriculum, our pedagogy, and our vision for this program, which aims to engage students in creating positive change through creative practice.

This two-year, residential program seeks prospective applicants who want to develop their artwork in relation to social and environmental justice questions, contexts and communities. Headed by internationally-recognized artists and including affiliate faculty from across campus, the program integrates the resources of a renowned public research university with the Art Department’s mission of educating and training students in cross-disciplinary, multimedia art practices.

Working individually and collaboratively, in the studio and in the field, students are invited to experiment with a breadth of approaches, art mediums, research methods, theoretical frameworks and technologies ranging from the traditional to the most contemporary. The EASP program’s interdisciplinary emphasis also encourages students to engage with departments, divisions, centers, labs, and faculty across the university to deepen and enrich their research, as well as to partner with groups and organizations outside the university to create and realize their projects. Environmental and social justice issues are shared globally, and the EASP program is committed to an international perspective that is grounded in local conditions, wherever local might be.

The University of California, Santa Cruz, is located in the unceded territory of the Awaswas speaking people whose descendants identify as members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. The EASP program respects the ongoing work of the Amah Mutsun in re-building relationships of reciprocity with the land and aims to center these, and other, Indigenous practices and perspectives in its pedagogical commitments.

The EASP program offers a sequence of core courses in practice-based research, theoretical, methodological, and historical foundations of the field, and arts pedagogies. Students gain practical experience through direct engagement with places and communities and hone their skills of critical analysis, while developing their own creative directions through their thesis projects. Group critique and production courses and faculty advising and mentorship, as well as electives drawn from the university at large, provide support for thesis projects.

Students build career paths connecting multimedia art practices with environmental justice, social justice, public policy, public art, curatorial practices, art education, art writing, urban planning, landscape architecture, and other professional and creative practices.

The EASP faculty engage a range of interdisciplinary topics in our research, from racial justice and food security, to land use and environmental activism, to public policy, science, technology, education, social movements, labor struggles, ecosexuality, and global migration. As leading practitioners in our fields, we present and distribute work through a wide range of venues, and invent new forms and systems for public engagement.

Recognizing that funding can be an obstacle to graduate education, the University of California, Santa Cruz, guarantees teaching assistantships that provide tuition remission and a stipend for the six consecutive quarters of the program. The training and experience gained from teaching assistantships is an integral part of the EASP education.

We invite adventurous students to learn and grow with us as we build this new program, in which socio-bio-diversity is acknowledged, respected, and celebrated, and through which we cultivate our abilities to respond as artists to urgent contemporary issues as we insist on the thriving (not just surviving) of all life on earth.

Please email artmfa [​at​] to register for the virtual information session zoom links, or register on our website.

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