Bookends: MFA Illustration Exhibition

Maria Carluccio
Maria Carluccio

The remarkable ability of illustration to tell complex, moving stories is on full display at “Bookends,” this year’s exhibition of visual theses by 11 students graduating from FIT’s Master of Fine Arts in Illustration. This is outstanding visual work, full of gripping imagery and engaging narratives.

The MFA is a three-year program with classes exclusively during evening and weekend hours so students can hold on to day jobs while studying. It has the distinction of being FIT’s first “terminal degree,” the highest academic degree awarded to individuals studying in a particular area of the fine arts.

You might be surprised to know that the work is not all visual. In their second year of study, students present written research theses—developed in close coordination with faulty—on various aspects of illustration.

“The MFA at FIT is a very demanding program of study,” Professor Melanie Reim said, who created the program for FIT’s School of Graduate Studies. “The students work hard developing both written and visual theses. We stress the parallel consistency between the written and the visual because writing is a very important part of a career in illustration.”

And students pursue their research while also developing their individual visual aesthetic, fully integrating digital aspects of illustration with traditional studio practice.

Along with the exhibit, the MFA students presented their work at the Society of Illustrators to “art buyers”—publishing professionals involved in hiring illustrators.

“Students made a dream list of editors and art directors they would like to work with and sent invitations to them,” said Professor Brendan Leach, who also teaches in the program. “Each student ‘pitched’ their work, and the feedback they got from the attendees was great.”

MFA student Laura Brokaw Boren described the event as being “extremely useful to get [our] work in front of professionals, not to mention getting feedback from those same professionals.”

Another MFA student, Diana Schoenbrun, agreed. “This was the first opportunity we had to speak in front of people not affiliated with the school in a professional setting,” said Ms. Schoenbrun. Her visual thesis, titled Simon and the Sea, is a children’s book that she both wrote and illustrated.

So stop into the Museum at FIT to see just some of the creative and innovative visions FIT students carry into the wider world when they graduate. The exhibit is on display through July 9 and is free and open to the public.