Because of all the research I’ve been doing for this exhibition, I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately. The College Art Association, which was founded in 1911 in order to promote excellence in the scholarship and teaching of the visual arts, says this about the MFA:

“The master of fine arts (MFA) degree in studio art and design is the recognized terminal degree in the visual arts. It is considered by the College Art Association (CAA), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the vast majority of institutions in higher education in the United States to be equivalent to terminal degrees in other fields, such as the PhD or EdD.”

If that was a little too dry for you to read (I don’t blame you). Basically, according to the CAA, having an MFA is on par with having a PhD. The CAA also says this about the MFA:

“The MFA degree demands the highest level of professional competency in the visual arts and contemporary practices. To earn an MFA, a practicing artist must exhibit the highest level of accomplishment through the generation of a body of work. The work needs to demonstrate the ability to conceptualize and communicate effectively by employing visual language to interpret ideas….”

This definition stirs up a lot of questions for me. Such as, what is “the highest level of professional competency”? How do we decide if an artist’s work “effectively” communicates ideas? I find this explanation of the MFA to be very vague. Although maybe that’s the beauty of it. Often, I find the word “art” to be very hard to define because our notions of art and art itself are always changing. The way that the CAA has explains the MFA allows for the constant reinterpretation of excellence.