How to Get a Fast Free MFA Degree

This morning I received a Masters of Fine Art degree for free, in about an hour, from the Tenderloin Institute of Art on O’Farrell Street in downtown San Francisco.  Yes, I actually got a paper diploma.  No, TIA is not accredited.  The brainchild of artist Jeremiah Jenkins, an MFA “degree” is awarded as part of an interactive art project: participants create a body of work, complete an artist’s statement and take an art history test.

I’d read about the event a few days earlier and laughed so hard that I figured it was worth checking out, whether or not I walked away with a diploma.   I showed up at opening time, 11:30.  The front door was locked because, hey, it’s the Tenderloin.  A friendly young woman admitted me to the 1200 sq. ft. exhibition space and explained how it all worked.  Participants were first to visit two out of three art stations: 2D, 3D, and Performance Art.

I walked over to the 2D table, where I was instructed to “Draw something.”  “Then draw two more things like it.”  Paper, colored pencils and erasers were provided.

At the 3D table, instructions were to choose two or three objects from two plastic bins and put them together.  Hot glue guns were fired up and ready to go.  The bins contained all sorts of bits and pieces; broken toys, fabric scraps, wood turnings and other random doodads.  I assembled my sculpture and placed it on the next table, which was outfitted with two lights, ready to be photographed.

Then for the artist’s statement.  My participant’s packet included a preprinted statement with blanks to be filled in: two nouns, two verbs and two adjectives.  Fortunately, Jenkins had already done all the heavy lifting for me.  Three dart boards hung on a wall, each papered with words: one was covered with nouns, the next with verbs, and the last with adjectives.  I threw two darts at each board and inserted the random results into my artist’s statement.  Unfortunately, my memory isn’t good enough to quote all the high falutin stuff my art hypothetically seeks to convey, but I’m pretty sure I made a big commitment to post modernism.  This is particularly entertaining because I’ve never been able to understand what post modernism is.

Then, on to the comically condensed art history lesson, which took the form of a 7 minute video.  I’m delighted to be able to share this video (and also not have to explain it) because it’s posted to YouTube.  If the link doesn’t work, type in Tenderloin Institute of Art – History of Art, or the artist’s name.

The final steps were completing a multiple choice art history test, getting it scored and receiving my diploma.  Sadly, I was unable to attend Saturday’s closing; the Vernissage, Commencement, and MFA exhibition.  More event videos coming soon to YouTube.Tenderloin Institute of Art San Francisco California

Thanks to Jeremiah Jenkins for reminding me that creativity is everyone’s birthright and a pleasure.


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