A strong dedication to civic involvement fortifies the Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program, which celebrates the graduation of its first cohort this spring. Among this cohort is Kiayani “Kay” Douglas MFA ’18, who felt drawn to the program as a Hartford native intent on giving back to her community. This spring, she captured the interest of the New England Graduate Media Symposium, which invited her to present on the theme, Beyond the Margins: Underrepresented Voices.
Kay submitted a portrait of her brother, a Marine, entitled, “Black People Can Destroy the Machinery That is Enslaving the World.” She painted the gestural piece on an American flag, and used it as a focal point for her presentation about the Black Panthers’ ten-point program and its modern relevance.
Kiayani Douglas, BFA '11 MFA '18
“The ‘machinery’ refers to money that we, as a black community, use to support capitalist societies,” she explains. “Because we’re not creating our own opportunities, we in turn perpetuate this system. I’ve been making art around the narrative of the African diaspora since I began the Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program, and I feel like the work I’m doing now is the real beginning of my professional practice.”
The Hartford Art School’s Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program prepares artists to engage with the most pressing issues of our time through dynamic, cross-disciplinary coursework at sites across the Americas. Last March, Kay finished a residency in Miami where she created work around the theme of art and ecology. She shaped each project to align with her unique point of view and explored the idea of social and ecological sustainability.
“The amount of work required to create opportunities of this caliber for myself would be insurmountable without this program,” says Kay. “I’ve met many artists whom I’ve never fathomed being able to meet before, and worked with them at residencies. The curriculum creates a rich network of artists teaching artists, and I’m honored to be part of the first cohort.”
The series she began during her MFA studies, “If All Black Men Were Pacifists,” is one she plans to expand upon for many years to come. To Kay, the degree is just the beginning.