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Unique MFA Program Brings Top Illustrators to Campus
Renowned illustrator and educator Murray Tinkelman and his wife, Carol Tinkelman, have been working for three years to establish the new limited residency MFA program in illustration at the Hartford Art School.
Alice "Bunny" Carter of San Jose State University and Dennis Nolan of the Hartford Art School critique student sketches during a studio class in the Harry Jack Gray Center.
Student Linda Warner Constantino of Hilton Head, S.C., works on her artichoke illustration during a studio class.
The prestigious new program, which is offered through the University’s Hartford Art School (HAS), is designed for working illustrators who want to enhance their skills, further their careers, and/or teach at the university level.
Among the cornerstones of the program are intensive two-week summer residencies on the University of Hartford campus, where students take classes with some of the top illustrators in the field. The first group of students began their two-week residency on July 10, and will continue taking classes here through July 21.
Pending state approval, which organizers hope to receive in September, this will be the only limited-residency MFA program in the country dedicated exclusively to illustration.
Internationally renowned illustrator, educator, and art historian Murray Tinkelman and his wife, Carol Tinkelman, have been working to bring the program to the Hartford Art School for the past three years. Murray Tinkelman, a professor emeritus at Syracuse University, ran a similar program at that school for 27 years – but that was an MA program, which requires fewer credits than an MFA.
Tinkelman, a recipient of the Hartford Art School's Koopman Chair in 2002, is effusive in his praise for the University of Hartford and the Art School, noting that administrators -- including Provost Donna Randall, HAS Dean Power Boothe, and Associate Dean Tom Bradley -- have been extremely welcoming and supportive of the new MFA program. While there was no requirement that he use Hartford Art School faculty, Tinkelman said he was so impressed by the talent at the School that he hired three HAS educators to serve on the faculty of the MFA program.
HAS Assistant Professor of Illustration Dennis Nolan team-taught a studio class during the first week of the summer residency, together with acclaimed illustrator and author Alice “Bunny” Carter, director of the School of Art and Design at San Jose State University in California. HAS Associate Professor of Illustration Bill Thomson (a former student of Tinkelman’s at Syracuse University) and Assistant Professor of Illustration Doug Andersen both will serve as thesis advisors for the MFA program.
During the first week of their residency, students in the MFA program took classes with Nolan and Carter, and with leading science fiction illustrator Vincent Di Fate. During the second week, they will take classes with Ted and Betsy Lewin, award-winning illustrators of children’s books; and with Jim Carson, a noted expert on the business of freelance illustration.
In fact, the entrepreneurial side of illustration is one of the focuses of the MFA program, according to Murray Tinkelman. For their thesis projects, students will have to produce both a body of work and an accompanying marketing plan.
The 17 students in this first MFA class will get together again in November 2006 for a week in Los Angeles and Pasadena, Calif., where they will meet with and visit the studios of top local illustrators. In March 2007 they will spend a week in Savannah, Ga., and Hilton Head, S.C., where they also will meet with world renowned illustrators. The students will return to the University of Hartford next summer for another two-week residency, and then, pending the completion of their theses, they will graduate. Following their graduation, the students’ thesis projects will be exhibited on campus.
The members of this first class all earned MA degrees under Tinkelman at Syracuse University, so they only have to earn 30 more credits for their MFAs. Members of future classes, starting with the students who will enter the program in the summer of 2007, will have to earn 60 credits to receive their MFAs. Those students will complete three two-week summer residencies on campus and four one-week trips to different cities over the course of two years.
HAS Associate Professor Bill Thomson, who is serving as thesis advisor for the first MFA class, said that the new program will raise the national stature of the Hartford Art School, and ultimately will have an impact on the experience of undergraduates. Undergraduate illustration majors will benefit from the vast network of professional illustrators who will become associated with the Hartford Art School, and students also will benefit from being able to see the work of the MFA candidates when their thesis projects are exhibited on campus, Thomson said.
Tinkelman said that mid-career education is becomingly increasingly important, and he would like to see the MFA program become a permanent fixture at the Hartford Art School. It is very powerful, he said, to see successful, established illustrators who are willing to be critiqued and to learn from each other.
"To be able to check their egos at the door and allow themselves to be vulnerable -- to me, that's the heart and the soul and the spirit of this program," Tinkelman said.
If you would like more information about the limited residency MFA program in illustration, you can email Murray and Carol Tinkelman at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call them at (914) 737-5960.