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MFA program increases studio space

 Photo by Chantal Jiang

Although the Visual Arts building is the oldest on campus, the master of fine arts (MFA) program was only founded in 2007 and has had just 30 graduates up until now.  With a newly expanded studio space, the two-year program will be able to expand its numbers from 12 students to 14.

The program has been very successful, with both students and faculty proud to work with a variety of accomplished artists of different genres in one place.

Jessica Bell, an MFA candidate who was nominated for the RBC Canadian Painting Competition last year, said, “One of the things that really attracted me to the University of Ottawa’s program was that it didn’t require you to specialize in a specific stream. In some larger schools there’s a painting stream, a textiles stream, a photo stream — here everything’s mixed up.

“Because of the nature of the program structure here, we’re all together,” she said. “It’s not conflicting — it’s great.”

Associate professor and acting chair Andrew Wright said this success is what led to the expansion. He said the U of O has the best-funded MFA program when compared to “any other university in the country that we are aware of.” The extremely limited admission combined with the best financial support makes it even more competitive.

Wright also points to the quality of community partners, which include the National Gallery, National Arts Centre, the National Research Council, and the Ottawa Art Gallery.

“It’s really exciting that we are going to have new spaces,” said Florence Vallières, an MFA student. In Montreal, she worked with other students in the same studio. “It was not that fun. Having a private studio makes a huge difference and I could come here anytime.”

Julia Martin, also an MFA candidate, loves the U of O’s facilities and professors.

“They are all working artists, who are really strong in their practices.”

MFA candidate Stanzie Tooth feels there was a good community before the expansion, but the increased physical space makes it even better.

“For me, the expansion is a huge step forward,” she said. “We are all together now, whereas before the expansion, people were working in separate spaces.”

To continue improving the program in the future, Martin suggests students would like more opportunities to teach.

MFA students are all teaching assistants for undergraduate students, which allows them to gain experience, as one of the goals for many MFA candidates is to teach at the post-secondary level.

Moving forward, Wright hopes the program continues to grow and develop as time goes on.

“We would love more physical resources in the building of course, so that we could build even more studios.”


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