Bay Area artist Jeremiah Jenkins, the dean, MFA department chair, and sole instructor of the newly minted Tenderloin Institute of Art, will be giving out bona fide non-accredited MFA degrees to anyone who wants one over two weekends starting April 17.
The new institute (whose logo may be rather recognizable) opens its doors at the SFAQ[Project]Space on O’Farrell Street, where prospective grad students will produce a body of work, learn about art history and theory, and display and defend their work at the MFA thesis show. So if you’re wandering around the TL one weekend in April, come on by. Learn painting, sculpture, performance art, theory, art history, critical bullshitting, …or get your degree.
The Tenderloin Institute of Art will offer all the various things one would learn in a real MFA program in “comically consolidated” form. “Some people will take a long time and put a lot of focus into their work,” Jenkins told ArtSlant, “but theoretically someone could come in and get an MFA in under an hour.”
Jenkins developed this social experiment in response to the increasing professionalization of the art world, the rise of for-profit art schools, and the recent uptick of artists with MFAs or in MFA programs. “There’s a new wave of MFAs every single year,” says Jenkins, “It’s kind of insane how many people have higher art degrees.” But the Tenderloin Institute of Art is not necessarily born out of contempt for this trend in the art world, but rather from Jenkins’ own experiences teaching art and art history. He devised the project out of a certain curiosity to see what people, from everyday folks to other artists, will create when prompted to work on the level of professional art-making.
Jenkins, who grew up in Tennessee, attended a small state school for his undergrad, then moved to San Francisco to attend grad school at San Francisco Art Institute. At SFAI he found a lot of people who were pursuing MFAs “because it’s just the next logical step.”
Does he fear that some people might take offense to the MFA giveaway? “I don’t have any fear,” he laughed, “but I have some expectations.” Jenkins, no stranger to mixed reactions, was heckled by some audience members for chopping wood as performance art at last year’s artMRKT San Francisco. His latest solo exhibition at Ever Gold Gallery featured the artist hunting for pre-packaged cuts of meat with a bow and arrow and tooling around a supermarket with a shopping cart made of twigs. “People take offense to anything that you do that’s a little weird or different,” he added.
But as Jenkins explained to me, the project’s intention is not to “discredit anyone’s reasons for going to grad school or getting an MFA or pursuing art at all.” It comes rather from a desire to open up the field even further—to the point of absolute absurdity. There are no prerequisites, no BFA degree requirements; “a five-year-old could get an MFA,” he says. Jenkins invokes Beuys: “If everybody is an artist,” he continues, “We’re just a society of creative people. So everyone should have an MFA.”
Tenderloin Institute of Art Opening Reception and meet-and-greet takes place April 17th 6:00-9:00pm at SFAQ[Project]Space, 449 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. The Institute will be open April 17th-18th and April 24th-25th from 11:30am-5:00pm, with the Vernissage, Commencement and MFA exhibition on April 25th from 6:00-9:00pm.