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Announcement
November 22, 2021

MFA in Art and Social Practice

Portland State University

Courtesy of Art + Social Practice at Portland State University.*

Courtesy of Art + Social Practice at Portland State University.*

Portland State University's School of Art + Design invites applications to Contemporary Art Practice MFA degree in Interdisciplinary Approaches to Social Practice.

Recently included in Artsy’s list of The Top 15 Art Programs in the United States, the generously funded Art and Social Practice MFA is a three-year, flexible residency (online or in person) program combining individual practice, group work, community partnerships, and experiential learning with diverse faculty and an array of visiting artists lectures via the program’s weekly Conversation Series. A wide range of practices including curation, writing, performance, conceptual art, video, design, and visual/studio art are encouraged within a socially engaged framework. Blending critical and professional practice, alternative pedagogy, collaborative social engagement, and transdisciplinary exploration produces an immersive educational environment for students interested in working as socially engaged artists. As part of the flexible residency format, students can be in Portland or away making work in remote locations. As an extension of the program’s unique approach, graduate students are invited to collaborate directly in ongoing program projects including:

KSMoCA (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr School Museum of Contemporary Art): a socially engaged work of art in the form of a contemporary art museum inside of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School (PreK-5th) in NE Portland, OR. KSMoCA’s programs are collaboratively developed with the school community, PSU students, and a team of artists. KSMoCA recently expanded to form the Harriet Tubman Middle School Center for Expanded Curatorial Practice.

Columbia River Creative Initiatives (CRCI): an artist-led set of programs and classes held at Columbia River Correctional Institution, a minimum-security prison in Portland. Past programming includes an Artist Residency for incarcerated artists, a variety show produced inside the prison, and graduate student-initiated special projects.

Social Forms of Art Journal: an online co-authored program publication prompting writing and analysis dedicated to supporting, documenting, and contextualising socially engaged art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the journal uses an interview format to take an eclectic look at the ways in which creative people are engaging with communities, institutions, and the public.

Assembly: the program’s annual Spring co-authored social practice conference with workshops, lectures, graduate project talks, and participatory projects. Each year the PSU Art + Social Practice MFA cohort organizes Assembly to present socially engaged art and to offer a forum for discussion around the field of Social Practice. Students select various site(s) in which to make projects, either through existing relationships, curiosity, or chance encounters.

The Art & Social Practice Archive: a new initiative housed in the PSU Library Special Collections. It is the first public archive of ephemera related to art and social practice. Students can participate and contribute to the growing collection as part of their program experience.

Graduate Assistantships, funding opportunities, and program expectations
The PSU School of Art + Design is committed to offering all successful applicants the best financial package possible. Through a combination of stipends and teaching assistantships, successful applicants receive financial support for all three years of study. Each graduate student is awarded approximately three terms of Graduate Assistantships (GAs) over the three year program. Beyond the GAs, additional opportunities may include teaching and designing courses as instructor of record. Students may take advantage of numerous grant, scholarship, and fellowship opportunities available through the School of Art + Design, Portland State University, and the broader Portland art community.

Graduating students design and teach their own class, as well as fulfill requirements to produce a graduate project, present a public artist lecture surveying their work in the program, participate in an exhibition at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU, and conceptualize and create a graduate publication that adds to the unique breadth of publications on socially engaged art emerging from the program.

Portland State University's School of Art + Design is a vital part of Portland’s progressive, nationally recognized arts community. Graduates from the program come from diverse backgrounds and have gone on to successfully engage with the expanded field of contemporary art through traditional and unorthodox avenues. More about admissions requirements can be found here or by emailing harrell [​at​] pdx.edu.

*Images above: (1) Students hiking at Wyeth Campground in the Columbia River Gorge for the annual Art + Social Practice MFA program retreat, 2021. Description: Four Art + Social Practice MFA students walk across a log over a rocky streambed in the Columbia River Gorge at Wyeth Campground outside of Portland, OR. In the center of the photograph, one student in red pants and a blue t-shirt turns around to reach toward another student in black pants and a black shirt to assist them in crossing the stream. (2) Students participating in a weekly program exercise during Workshop class at KSMoCA (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School Museum of Contemporary Art) at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, 2021. Description: Five Art + Social Practice MFA students engaging in a physical stretching activity while seated with their right arms held up in the air with their bodies leaning to their right side. All students are seated in a classroom located within KSMoCA (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School Museum of Contemporary Art) at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. In front of the students is a computer that is connected with students on Zoom who are also participating in the activity. The classroom has white walls, with posters and artwork created by elementary school students, with a clock that reads 2:51pm.

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