A locus for creative problem solving, fostered by critical thinking, with an emphasis on community.
The experience and exploration of embodied place is a central element of this distinctive program. It encourages students’ multi-dimensional relationship with their environment both here in the Tahoe Basin and within their own communities. The low-residency interdisciplinary approach to art-making encourages participants to consider how we engage the material and social worlds of our respective environments. From personal to political to planetary, and across disciplines, participants discover and grow their own sustainable professional practice.
The Sierra Nevada University low residency MFA-IA program takes advantage of emerging technologies in education. It combines two intensive ten-day residency periods each year in beautiful Lake Tahoe with full-time work in the student’s local studio. A dynamic group of faculty, renowned visiting artists, professional mentors and peers guide you through the process of developing an active and professional practice. Residencies bring students, faculty and visiting artists together in a collaborative community. Using all available channels, students engage, critique and explore unfamiliar ideas and cross-disciplinary questions. Personalized mentorship and extensive studio time help students develop the expressive, professional skills and realize their personal visions.
The low-residency program’s interdisciplinary approach addresses the challenges and responsibilities faced by contemporary artists. By focusing on the skill development, experimentation, and collaborative dialogue, our faculty and student body foster creative solutions. Join this program and help build a community around sustainable, professional art practice.
What happens between residencies?
Between residencies, students return to their home studios to focus on their own studio practice. As a supplement to this, they participate in one-on-one mentorships with an assigned faculty member. Each semester’s mentor guides them through this process. Additionally, students participate in an online seminar with the rest of their peers. The seminar, which varies in topic each semester, maintains the connection between classmates until they meet again in person.
Is your program accredited?
Yes. Our low-residency MFA-IA program is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
How do students spend their time during the residencies?
During each residency, students take a minimum of 9 credits of coursework. The courses range from studio practice to critical theory. They challenge notions of site, context, and installation. They build professional and creative studio-art practice. As students move through the program, they work towards their own midway and final exhibitions. These exhibitions are muti-faceted, taking place on and off campus – during the residencies themselves and outside of them. Students and faculty spend portions of residency time on campus at Lake Tahoe, as well as several days off campus. Off campus sites include Sagehen Creek Research Station and St. Mary’s Art Center. Students begin working on readings and small assignments as soon as a month prior to the residency start date. Due to the intense nature of the low-residency structure students can come prepared to work long days and get the most out of our time together. Outside of coursework, students have access to open studio time, conversation and critique time, as well as time to explore the area. Days are long and productive. Both students and faculty feel that this intense and immersive experience yields amazing and unpredictable results.
How is this program different from other low-residency MFA programs?
The MFA-IA program is specifically geared towards people with active lives outside of school. While we are a full-time program, we consciously designed the 10-day residencies with the notion that not everyone can take off for an entire summer, or for multiple weeks at a time. We know that there are dedicated, talented, driven artists and thinkers who have children, jobs, or other responsibilities that make it difficult for them to commit to a conventional MFA program. We continue to listen and hone our program. Our program is sensitive to the needs of modern contemporary artists.
We distinguish ourselves through our emphasis on “place” as a central operating subject of inquiry. We fold in the concept of “low-residency,” not just as a convenient model, but rather as a principle of moving through today’s world. What can groups of like-minded but geographically distant artists create together? How can we activate the hunger to explore a mode of understanding via location and fuel multi-tiered inquiries?
“What can Lake Tahoe host as a specific location, beyond it’s tremendous beauty?” creates a structure for thinking about landscape – both natural and man-made. The Tahoe Basin does this by showing us what is present as well as what is missing. We hope to embolden students desire for more critical dialogue around our relationship to our surroundings, and the role of the artist addressing these complexities.
What is the general arc of a student moving through this program?
The program consists of 5, 10-day residencies (summer/winter/summer/winter/summer) with corresponding coursework between each residency. This takes place during conventional fall and spring semesters. Generally, students take 9 credits per residency and 4.5 credits each semester. During students 3rd residency, students mount a series of work for a “midway exhibition.” During the last semester + culminating residency, students design, produce, and install a final exhibition in their home community. This includes preparation of an archive of that exhibition.The archive is installed during their 5th residency, and serves as their thesis.
What is the average age of a student in this program?
The average age of our current students is mid-30’s.
Where do students do their thesis exhibitions?
Students create, produce and install their official thesis exhibition in their home community, with the guidance of their mentors and thesis advisors. During the final (5th) residency on campus, students design an archive version of their community exhibition. This archive is mounted for display in our galleries. Thesis committees meet during the final residency to critique projects and complete thesis conversations.
What equipment is available for students to use during their time on campus?
SNU’s Holman Arts and Media Center is entirely available to MFA students during their residencies. We have a full print shop, photo lab (both digital and analogue), a sculpture/metal shop, a ceramics studio, and access to 3d modeling software and production.
Do I need to have studied art officially before pursuing an MFA at SNU?
No you do not. In fact, our emphasis on “interdisciplinary” is as such based on our interest in cultivating conversations with people from a multiplicity of backgrounds and experience. While some of our students have come from traditional fine art backgrounds, many are coming to us with degrees in the sciences, in politics and activism, in education or in multi-media design. We hope to collect students from even more diverse places so that we can continue to create a space for these exciting collaborative experiences.