As the Cressman Center for Visual Arts filled with people for opening night of the Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition, Scott Massey, director of the Hite Art Institute, took the floor.
Surrounded by their art, he congratulated Miranda Becht, Tom LeGoff and Marie-Elena Ottman for becoming the first class to graduate from Hite’s Master of Fine Art program. The first courses for the 60 credit hour degree began in 2014. It’s the only MFA program in Louisville.
“I want to thank you for all your work these past three years,” Massey said to resounding applause.
The MFA Thesis Exhibition runs through May 27 in the Cressman. The diversity of art forms in the show reflects the diversity of offerings in the MFA program. Students may choose to practice in a variety of mediums or narrow in on one. Courses include ceramics, drawing, fibers, glass, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, design, mixed media, book arts and new media.
“I loved that the program let me explore,” Ottman said. “It was the perfect opportunity to grow as an artist.”
Her work at the Cressman, titled “Transplant: Fruits of their Labor,” features winding vines of ceramic, glass and metal. Ottman, who is from Panama, used the vines to metaphorically consider topics such as immigration, migrant labor and translation.
Classmate and photographer Tom LeGoff displayed photographic cabinet cards to develop a visual story and mythology of a destroyed town.
He said he perused the MFA to better his craft and to “submerge myself more deeply in photography.”
He hopes to teach and Indiana University Southeast and the University of Kentucky have shown interest.
The program started small with just a few students a year as there wasn’t enough studio space to accommodate more. But, plans for MFA studios in a renovated Portland warehouse are coming to fruition. Construction begins this month and the space should be ready for students in spring 2018, Massey said.
The Portland space will allow the program to expand and broaden its reach in the city, which can only be a good thing, said Chris Reitz, Hite’s director of galleries.
“Artists trained in the global principles and practice of contemporary art-making are a real benefit to the city,” he said. “You really need an MFA program to become a nationally and internationally recognized arts center.”