CalArts students to invite public into private studios during annual event

MFA Open Studios organizer, Sydney Mills, consults with a fellow art student. Courtesy of Rafael Hernandez/CalArts

The Santa Clarita community and general public will have a unique opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the creative processes and studios of MFA students at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Sunday.

Called the MFA Open Studios, the annual free event features completed and in-progress work from MFA students studying Art, Art and Technology, Photography and Media, and Graphic Design.

The event, which is planned and organized by first year MFA students, will allow visitors to gain insights into the different art practices at the institute from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“Most of the time when people go see artwork it’s already finished and it’s in a museum or a gallery.  There is a kind of distance between the viewer and the finished work,” said Sydney Mills, MFA Open Studios organizer and MFA Photo and Media student.  “This really breaks that distance down and the viewer can have more of a one-on-one experience with an artist and their work.”

In total, the MFA Open Studios will include exhibited work from approximately 80 artists.  It also will include three performance art pieces in the John Baldessari Studio Classroom at 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 4:20 p.m.  and 14 film screenings in the Bijou movie theatre.

“Some students will have their studio spaces set up like exhibitions; some will have them set up as in-process studios,” said Bird Driessen, an Open Studios committee organizer and MFA Art student.  “I know there are a couple of collaborative projects happening in different studios as well.”

The first-year MFA students began planning for the Open Studios in the beginning of January.  They handled public relations, designed the event posters, wrote grants to fund the program and prepared to set up the event.

“It’s been a distributed planning process,” Driessen said.  “We have a bunch of different student committees that handle different aspects of the planning process.”

This year also marks the first time the Graphic Design students will join in the MFA Open Studios.

Andrés Machin, MFA ’16, stands in front of his studio at the MFA Open Studios last year. Courtesy of Rafael Hernandez/CalArts

“It’s bigger than previous years,” Mills said.  “It’s around 80 total students which is a huge amount of studios.”

In their own studies, students have the options of leaving their studio items in place or cleaning out their studios to create an exhibit space.  Mill said she is opting for the former.

“Personally I’m not emptying out my studio… I’m cleaning it up and removing some of the furniture to give more space for work to be seen,” she said.  “I’m putting up finished work on the wall and then adding a couple in-process works.”

Both Mills and Driessen said they are looking forward to seeing work from their fellow students and students outside of their own MFA programs.

“I’m a painter so I’m excited to see all the different studios that have painting projects in them,” Driessen said.  “People end up being in their studios and you don’t oftentimes get to see people’s work outside of their one show during the year.  I’m excited to peek in and see what everyone else is up to.”

Mills echoed Driessen’s statement, noting that because CalArts’ MFA program is so large, she often does not have a chance to see work from students in other disciplines.

“I’m really excited to go over to the art studios which are in a different spot than my photo studios are and see what everyone’s doing,” she said.

A map of the MFA Open Studios. Courtesy of CalArts

The students are looking forward to opening up their studios to the public and inviting them to ask questions about their work in a more personal space.

“I used to do open studios at my last studio space, it’s interesting to allow people into your space that’s normally private and really open up to people,” Mills said.  “I’m ok with answering personal questions because it’s my artwork and I’m putting it out there so I can’t be secretive about it.”

They are also looking forward to inviting those from the community into CalArts and their studios to see the artwork being produced in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“I hope that they [visitors] feel an affinity toward the creative process… and that the public feels a positive connection to creators and producers,” Driessen said.  “I think Santa Clarita has this huge community of artists although they’re cycling through because they’re students.  To increase the connection between this community is great and open and really positive.”

The CalArts MFA Open Studios is scheduled to take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday on CalArts’ campus, located at 24700 McBean Parkway in Valencia.

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