Clemson University’s Master of Fine Arts program has commemorated a half-century of creative expression and learning during the 2023–2024 academic year with a three-part exhibition that showcases artwork from its graduates. 

“This milestone allows us to honor and witness the incredible successes of our alumni, achieved over five decades, while also looking forward to the promising future ahead,” said Kathleen  Thum, associate professor and MFA graduate program coordinator.

The MFA program was created with a single student, who graduated in 1973, in the Department of Visual Studies, the predecessor to the Department of Art. Today, it boasts more than 250 graduates.

The MFA is the terminal degree in the visual arts. Clemson’s program offers concentrations in the studio areas of drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, photography and sculpture. 

Interdisciplinary and collaborative projects are encouraged. The primary goal of the program is to provide students with opportunities to develop a high degree of professional competence in their chosen area of concentration.

En Iwamura M ’16 enrolled in Clemson’s MFA program after meeting Department of Art Chair Valerie Zimany while she was on research leave for a Fulbright-Hays award in Japan. Today, his whimsical ceramic sculptures have been celebrated in exhibitions all over the world, from his native Japan to France, China, Australia and the United States.

“I believe people need to get out from their comfortable zone to grab opportunities they haven’t imagined,” Iwamura said. “For me, those three years I spent at Clemson were tough but one of the brightest memories I have.”

Thum said that graduate students are the heart of the Department of Art, and their commitment to artistic practice and academic rigor energizes the department’s faculty and undergraduates.

“Together, we will nurture a community of diverse artists and scholars, fostering creativity, collaboration and innovation as we continue to shape the future of visual arts for generations to come,” she said.

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