This year’s MFA thesis exhibition, an annual showcase for the work of students graduating from the Visual Arts program at the School of the Arts, returns to campus for the first time in more than a decade. The show, which opens April 22, will inaugurate the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Gallery’s new home in the Lenfest Center for the Arts on Columbia’s Manhattanville campus.
The show presents the thesis work of 29 degree candidates across a range of media: painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, printmaking, video, installation, mixed media and performance. There is no unifying theme. Instead, “the show takes the pulse of the creation of art now, in all its forms and formal languages,” said Deborah Cullen, director and chief curator of the Wallach, who curated the MFA show.
In the past, the exhibition has been held all over the city, including galleries in SoHo and Chelsea, a candy factory in Williamsburg and Christie’s auction house near Rockefeller Center. For the past nine years it has been mounted at the Fisher Landau Center for Art in Long Island City. The MFA show’s return to campus will enable many more students, faculty, staff and members of the local community to see it and learn about the importance of art and art-making at the University.
“It was difficult to get people to come and see the show in the past. Columbia itself didn’t turn out. But now everyone can come see the show easily,” said Carol Becker, dean of the School of the Arts. “It will be a completely accessible and wonderful way to introduce our programming to the neighborhood. This is the school’s first extraordinary collaboration with the Wallach. It is a great Columbia moment, with all of this coming together in our new space in Lenfest on our new campus.”
The Wallach Gallery provides a platform for research and production at the School of the Arts and in the department of Art History and Archaeology, as well as presenting new scholarship on Columbia’s collections.
“We also seek to engage and respond to our broader surrounding communities. The MFA thesis exhibition, a snapshot of contemporary artistic production on campus, honors our mission vibrantly,” said Cullen. After the MFA thesis exhibition closes on May 21, the gallery will host "Uptown," a summer survey of contemporary artists from Harlem, El Barrio and Washington Heights that opens June 2.
By Eve Glasberg