Stan Douglas, Diana Thater and other professors at one of California’s top art schools are campaigning to offer free classes to graduate students

The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., is working to provide free tuition for students and has planned a high-profile benefit show to kick off the fundraising effort.

Ten alumni and high-level employees of the influential school, including Ivan Morley, Shahryar Nashat, Laura Owens and Sterling Ruby donated works to online sale moderated by David Zwirner. All proceeds from “Artists for ArtCenter,” which opens on Zwirner’s website July 19, will go to the school’s graduate art department.

Stan Douglas, chair of the Art Center’s graduate studies department who co-organized the sale with artist and longtime faculty member Diana Thater, said he hopes to raise more than $1.2 million. The money will be used for the creation of a new scholarship that would make two years of tuition free for an MFA student.

It’s the first step in Free Grad Art, a larger, multi-year initiative to make the program free for all 35 enrolled students. After that will come a campaign built around asking alumni for donations.

“The overall goal,” Douglas said, “is to make [the department] more accessible to people who may not have the ability to raise tuition… We think we have a fantastic program and we would like to share it with as many people as possible. This will be one way to get there. »

Stan Douglas, Exodus, 1975 (2012). ©Stand Douglas. Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner.

Douglas, who has taught at the Art Center since 2009, said he and Thater don’t yet know how much money will need to be raised to make the MFA program free at all levels, noting that achieving that goal is still a “pie “. in the sky” dream. (Tuition for graduate students is currently about $25,000 per semester.)

Thater, who earned his MFA from the Art Center in 1990 and has been on its faculty for the past 27 years, first introduced the idea that would become Free Grad Art several years ago. She also donated a work to the show: a 2019 installation of wall-mounted monitors and LED lights called natural history a.

Other notable names who attended the 92-year-old art school include artists Doug Aitken, Jorge Pardo and Jennifer Steinkamp; photographers Lee Friedlander and Hiroshi Sugimoto; and filmmakers Michael Bay and Zack Snyder.

In this spirit, Douglas did not deny that there is a “selfish motive” behind the Free art effort for graduates: “If we all have free tuition, we’ll have the best graduating students in the world.”

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