July 12, 2022
Today, visual artist Stan Douglas, chair of the Graduate Art department at ArtCenter College of Design announced Free Grad Art, a new initiative to enable wider accessibility for students with the establishment of endowed departmental scholarships.
The inaugural fundraising effort to support the initiative is Artists for ArtCenter, a charitable online presentation conceived in collaboration with David Zwirner gallery and launching July 19 on davidzwirner.com. The online presentation will feature works by the school's renowned alumni and faculty. All sale proceeds will benefit the Artists for ArtCenter Grad Art Scholarship at ArtCenter College of Design.
The Artists for ArtCenter sale will feature works donated by ArtCenter alumni and faculty members, including Aaron Curry, Stan Douglas, Nathan Hylden, Sharon Lockhart, Ivan Morley, Shahryar Nashat, Joshua Nathanson, Laura Owens, Sterling Ruby, and Diana Thater.
“This is the ideal way for us, as artists, to collectively support the next generation of artists,” said Douglas, who is leading the Free Grad Art initiative with Diana Thater, former chair of ArtCenter’s Graduate Art department and a core faculty member for the last 27 years. “Our vision is to grow our departments endowed scholarship funds and make our program more accessible to more diverse candidates. Ultimately, we want to raise enough money to provide a tuition-free experience for each of the 35 artists enrolled in the MFA program,” Douglas continued.
The Artists for ArtCenter online sale is the realization of a commitment by the Graduate Art faculty and its alumni to generate scholarships and remove the burden of tuition for MFA student artists. Free Grad Art is a key goal of Douglas’ current leadership of the department. In the near future, additional efforts and projects will be announced to support this goal.
Diana Thater’s Natural History One (2019) was donated by the artist and will be a part of the online benefit presentation. This work is currently on view at the lobby entrance of 1111 S. Arroyo Parkway to ArtCenter’s campus in Pasadena. The installation marks the inauguration of ArtCenter Exhibitions’ new 1111 Projects initiative that features a rotating program of important works by the College’s alumni.
Planning for the Free Grad Art scholarship initiative began in 2018. The Department’s full-time faculty decided to form a Grad Art Advisory Board that would be composed of current faculty and select alumni. Current Advisory Board members are Chris Birchby (MFA 01), Aaron Curry (MFA 05), Stan Douglas, Laura Owens, Jason Smith, Bruce Heavin (BFA 93) and Diana Thater (MFA 90).
This board worked to strategically address an issue faced by many North American MFA fine art programs: the rising debt levels of young artists. The high cost of attending the top MFA programs means many artists leave these institutions with crushing debt, conditions that make it difficult to live and work as artists when they leave school. For many excellent young artists, the cost is an insurmountable barrier. While many arts institutions serving the larger art world thrive on the basis of a strong tradition of philanthropy from patrons, support for burgeoning artists in graduate level programs remains largely overlooked.
The Grad Art Advisory Board came up with a new three-pronged approach. They agreed, firstly, MFA candidates need to be considered as artists who will soon enter the art world and need to be treated as such by the gallerists, collectors and institutions they will work with in the coming decades. Secondly, appeals need to be made not only to philanthropists, but to all stakeholders in the art world including foundations, collectors, institutions, gallerists and, importantly, established artists. Thirdly, the Advisory Board decided that the optimal model for raising funds in Free Grad Art’s initial phase would not be to directly solicit donations, or hold a cumbersome auction, the artists on the board would instead sell their works directly through their galleries and, ask the gallerists to cede their usual fee, give the entire proceeds of the sale to scholarships under the Free Grad Art initiative. This initial collaboration between artists and gallerists will, in turn, bear witness to the commitment these two “stakeholders” share toward making it possible for any and all talented, ambitious artists to attend the best MFA programs in North America without regard for cost. It is on the basis of these commitments that a broader base of donors -- other artists not affiliated with ArtCenter, gallerists, collectors, foundations will be approached to join the effort.
About Graduate Art
ArtCenter's Graduate Art program is based on intensive studio practice and rigorous academic coursework. The MFA program is distinguished by its low faculty-to-student ratio that provides students with the attention and feedback they need to refine and achieve their artistic goals. Faculty and students are artists working in all genres—film, video, photography, painting, sculpture, performance and installation. A significant number of alumni have achieved national and international acclaim and often return to share their insights and expertise as visiting faculty and guest lecturers.
About ArtCenter College of Design
Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and 10 graduate degrees in a wide variety of art and design disciplines. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College also serves the general public through a highly regarded series of year-round online and on campus extension programs for all levels of experience. Renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives, ArtCenter is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. Throughout the College’s long and storied history, ArtCenter alumni have had a profound impact on popular culture, the way we live and important issues in our society.
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Director of Media Relations
ArtCenter College of Design