April 30 – May 20, 2011
Exhibition venues
Sullivan Galleries, 33 S. State, 7th floor
Wabash Galleries, 22-28 S. Wabash
Exhibition hours
Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Free and open to the public

The Graduate Thesis Exhibition—“The MFA Show”—is always cause for celebration: the culmination of a master in fine arts degree, an explosion of new work, new ideas, new forms, and new artists into the art world.  It is a moment when new careers are on the horizon, and life’s path turns a corner. We celebrate those students-soon-alumni who are taking this step, as we welcome you to view the show that launches them.

This year’s MFA show also was a new path for the Department of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. What you see here is the result of a sharing of ideas between the graduating artists and a curatorial team. This is the first time we have organized this show in this way, and like artmaking itself, it was an experiment. We hope you’ll agree it paid off.

We invited four guest curators to lead the project who are each themselves new voices on the scene: Juan William Chávez, Jessica Cochran, Bryce Dwyer, and Gregory J. Harris (They all happen to be SAIC alumni, so we are proud of that, too.) Beginning as we always do, with that most important first step of the studio visit—in that space of making that doubles as a place of conversation and critique—the curators became regulars across the campus. They proved an expert team—insightful, probing, critical, and compassionate. Most of all, they were a team—each working with their group of artists, conceiving and cultivating their respective sections, yet working in unison, respecting each others’ ideas and terrain, without resorting to claiming turf, so that this mammoth undertaking of 135 artists in two gallery locations, could become a cohesive whole.

One of the most exciting and valuable dimensions this year was the creation of a Curatorial Fellows program. Twelve current master’s candidates in Studio, Arts Administration and Policy and, the dual degree masters program in Modern Art History, Theory and Criticism and Arts Administration and Policy were selected to participate in a new class in curatorial practice and become curatorial assistants to the guest curators. The fellows served well, without exception, in this curatorial capacity, questioning and contributing through this professional, learning structure. And we know that the guest curators join us in thanking them for jumping into this enterprise that is the MFA show with good spirit and good ideas.

This show is one aspect of a wider circle of programs at the masters level that take place each spring and summer. Their presentations involve virtually all the School, its academic and many other departments that enable education to happen at its highest and most vigorous level. So to our outstanding artists, designers, and scholars who endeavor yearlong and at this end-of-the-school-year time, our thanks and congratulations for what you bring to the student body and to the Chicago art community as a whole.

Students working with students, faculty and students in dialogue, curators and artists in conversation, artists moving forward together…. In the process of making the Graduate Thesis Exhibition, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago looks at itself, and now it’s here for you to have a look, too.

Mary Jane Jacob – Executive Director of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies

Candida Alvarez – Interim Dean of Graduate Studies