YSU Pursues Trailblazing MFA Program


By Samantha Phillips


Youngstown State University Board of Trustees approved the proposal for a Master of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts. On Friday, faculty from the art department will be travelling to Columbus for the final approval process.


The MFA in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts will be a two-year residency program with students graduating after completing 60 credits. The curriculum will be a crossover between visual arts disciplines and other areas such as engineering or psychology.


Samuel Adu-Poku, art education coordinator, said the program will allow students to select a combination of different mediums during their graduate studies.


“The interdisciplinary art approach is a means of connecting and integrating diverse art media and distinct creative methodologies of contemporary creative art practices,” Adu-Poku said. “So our MFA program will applaud approaches that synthesize broad perspectives, ideas, knowledge and skills from within the art department and across other fields.”


If the program is approved on Friday, then enrollment could start as early as fall of 2016.


The need for this program was determined after a survey was sent out to people including YSU alumni. Seventy-one percent of the responses were in agreement that an interdisciplinary degree would be beneficial. To create the program at YSU, faculty from the art department had to present the proposal to several agencies. The final presentation will be this week and is expected to have a positive response.


Greg Moring, chair of the department of art, said once the program is finalized, they will advertise the program to current undergraduate students both in the art department and in other fields, and to other state institutions that have undergraduate programs in visual arts.


Adu-Poku said it’s a terminal degree, meaning it’s the highest attainable degree in the Fine Arts program. Students will learn from lectures and explore the ideas they learn in class and in the studio. The objective of this program is to graduate professional artists who are able to establish their career or enter careers in art education.


Moring said the program is unique to the state of Ohio.


“There are MFA programs at some of the larger schools: Bowling Green, Kent, Cincinnati and Miami, and they are all discipline specific. We are the only one who will offer this type of program within the visual arts,” Moring said. “As a matter of fact, there are very few of this type of program available nationwide. So it’s going to be a unique program, and we do believe it will be attractive.”


He said contemporary visual arts are going towards an interdisciplinary approach. Artists are learning to incorporate several different medias into their work.


“There will be interdisciplinary practice, where students will work on their individual work, and there is interdisciplinary seminars where they get together and discuss it, and there’s also interdisciplinary theory classes, so everything in this MFA is focused on how you work across the disciplines,” Moring said.


Adu-Poku said the enrollment is expected to start with at least five students initially and then grow from there. It can change based on facilities and resources because each student needs their own studio to create and exhibit their art.


“They can do electives, where they can explore things like music, engineering, business, etc.” Adu-Poku said. “They can learn how to apply business skills with their artwork … That’s why there are electives,”


Adu-Poku said undergraduate programs typically focus heavily on one discipline, but interdisciplinary studies allow students to move across boundaries.


Michael Crist, interim dean of the College of Creative Arts and Communications, said the program will benefit students who are pursuing careers as professional artists.


“College-wide, we are working on reaching out into the university and looking at classes and programs that will allow students … to look at other areas, maybe business, computer science, who knows, whatever direction the student wants to go,” Crist said.


He said the interdisciplinary focus is starting to grow because students and faculty are aware that the art world is changing.


“We’re trying to make these programs as diverse as possible,” Crist said. “This gives a good foundation of what the students will deal with in the real world.”


Crist expressed enthusiasm for the new program.


“It’s exciting for the college; it’s exciting for the department of art,” Crist said “it’s a diverse, open-ended program, faculty, students and prospective students are excited about it as an opportunity for them to go on in their studies, and it gives people a background in real world experience. So I’m excited for it.”