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A few days away…MFA

Jim Doran Weird Science

It’s been a long time coming!

This is a screen capture of digital signage that is displayed on Towson University’s campus for my upcoming MFA graduate show.

I’ll share more shortly, but couldn’t wait to post this.

UPDATE 4/29/2021

It’s almost a full year later as I write this. We are still in the pandemic. We have a new president and administration. Things are opening back up for in-person events, dining, etc. Here’s how things stand.

I graduated from Towson University with an MFA in Studio Art. I’m happy about this, and I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, some of which I’ll share here.

I applied and enrolled in 2015. My employer offers very generous tuition remission, and I love school. I wanted to study art in college, but ended up studying music, and earned a minor in art history. So, when I was looking at graduate programs, I found Towson offers a part-time MFA. I applied, and to my delight, got in.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Art School. As a non-art-schooler, I imagined difficult art school critiques and such. I also was going in with fully formed processes, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to get out of this, or what to expect.

I found a very flexible program, with many avenues of study available. The Fine Arts Building is a wonder. I had a leaky, floody studio on campus for a year. I went part time until 2017, when I took a break. Actually, I quit. I thought I might study instruction technology or cyber security. I was also questioning my purposes in spending so much time in grad school – earning 60 credits over a part-time schedule can take over 5 years.

I decided to reenroll in 2019, only this time I would go full time. I think that was smart. I returned to find a new cohort of diverse, smart, energetic people with lots of positive energy. I threw myself into exploring animation, and I had a wonderful time.

What I learned about graduate art school: graduate art school provides one time to make work, and get feedback from others. You teach yourself most of what you want to know – either by sitting in an undergrad class, attending a seminar, etc. Faculty can point out things you might not know about, and offer feedback on stuff. Faculty members are humans, and they only offer opinions – some are helpful, some are not. Smaller committees work better than bigger ones. Ultimately, you get out of it what you put into it, and what you bring into the experience with you (baggage, ideas, fear, joy) will most certainly inform the outcome.

What I got for my time: My thesis was an exercise in self reflection that helped my pull together a bunch of notions, inspirations, and ideas that were all inhabiting different parts of me. Practically speaking, I learned how to make cyanotypes, and plastic replicas of my figures. I learned about 3D scanning and printing. I developed several studio processes for animation. My interest in music and audio recording deepened. I made some wonderful friends.

I’ve reworked Doranimation.com to show my animations, as per my original plan. I removed the artist talk and a few of the posts showing non-animated pieces that I would have used in my real life exhibit. Here’s my artist talk:

I considered my MFA presentation successful. For my part, it felt a little one sided, in that people viewed my work from their computers or phones (if they viewed it at all), and that was that. At a normal opening, one can visit with people, explain ideas, and generally have a good time. In this case, I could see numbers from analytics, and aside from a few emails, I didn’t get much feedback. Which is completely fine, because I was able to complete the degree and graduate on time.

Almost a year after posting my graduate work and completing my thesis, and six years after undertaking this whole project, I can say it was worth doing. I entered the program with a developed set of processes and completed body of work, and discovered the value of research as it pertains to art.