This fall marks a milestone for Texas A&M University with the first cadre of Master of Fine Arts in Visualization students beginning their studies. The university's first MFA degree program, offered by the Department of Visualization, is designed to prepare artists for careers in the fine arts, art education, the entertainment and media industries and other art-oriented vocations.
The new, technology-infused offering, said Tim McLaughlin, head of the department, incorporates critical fields of science, engineering and math in coursework including the practice of digital art and design, time-based media, interactive environments, physical computing and contemporary art theory and criticism.
The MFA-V program launches this fall with 12 students, including recent B.S. Visualization graduates, students from out-of-state and international art programs, and seven students from the department's Master of Science in Visualization program who changed their major.
“Two of the new MFA-V students are expected to present their finished bodies of work and graduate this December,” said Richard Davison, professor of visualization and coordinator of the new degree program.
Though it’s an art degree, Davison said, the MFA-V will maintain the art and science symbiosis that makes the Master of Science in Visualization so effective.
"We anticipate that MFA-V projects will not be radically different from the MS-Viz program projects,” he said. “There will be more references to the 'art world,' but not necessarily less science and technology involved."
The new degree is designed to prepare graduates to meet the global demand for digital artists and art educators, said McLaughlin. That need was demonstrated in a November 2008 College Art Association's career listing of 57 jobs requiring expertise in digital media among 220 university teaching positions.
According to the Texas Cultural Trust, creative sector jobs will count for 1 in 12 jobs statewide by 2016. These include computer, mathematical, architecture, engineering, sciences, art, design, entertainment, sport and media occupations.
A 2008 Dun & Bradstreet report noted an 11 percent-increase in art-related businesses and a six percent-increase in employment in the previous two-year period. And, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 612,095 businesses nationwide involved in the creation or distribution of the arts in January 2008, employing 2.98 million people; between 2007 and 2008 the number of art-related businesses grew 12%.
In addition to favorable job opportunities upon graduating, students pursing the new MFA-V degree will have access to the professional-grade digital tools at the Texas A&M Visualization Laboratory, including:
• High-performance dual-screen graphical workstations, large format archival printers, 3-D rapid prototype printers, a high-resolution scanner and physical fabrication facilities;
• A large assortment of component technology, such as projectors, sensors, infrared tracking, wireless controllers, screens and speakers for installation and interactive experience projects;
• High-definition image acquisition devices, including professional digital still cameras, full 1080p video cameras and portable field production kits, lighting, sound stage, and an audio post-production suite;
• Stereographic 3-D image production capability from workstation to live action; and
• Large format, flat panel devices, including stereographic displays mounted to accommodate a variety of uses, and high-definition projection in auditoriums and classrooms.
The MFA-V joins the Bachelor of Science in Visualization degree program, which began in 2009, and the Master of Science in Visualization program, which began in 1989. The programs are administered by the Department of Visualization, which was established in the College of Architecture in 2008.