Art Basel Miami Beach, regarded as North America’s most comprehensive international contemporary art fair, celebrated its 20th year this past December 2022. From its inception, faculty from Florida State University’s Department of Art recognized the value to students of firsthand exposure to the caliber of modern and contemporary art found there, and initiated discussions on planning travel to this venue. In its second year, Professor Lilian Garcia-Roig (serving then as MFA Director and now as Department Chair), worked with College of Fine Arts Dean Sally McRorie (who later became Provost) and donors to secure funds to take students to this lauded international art fair. Since then, the department has worked diligently to nurture and continue a now beloved and integral research travel tradition for our graduate students.
Annual research travel which alternates between Art Basel Miami Beach, Prospect Art Fair triennial in New Orleans and visits to The Big Museums and galleries of NYC, has become a significant recruiting tool for attracting prospective students into the Studio Art graduate program. Recognizing that direct engagement with the greater art world beyond FSU’s Museum of Fine Arts is very limited in Tallahassee, during these journeys, faculty have historically worked to optimize the number of influential curricular-relevant activities and educational benefits. Typical activities have included arranging student visits to collections, museums, unique symposiums, special curatorial tours, galleries, and artists’ studios.
This past year, the Department of Art once again brought a cohort of over 20 MFA students to an eventful four days of non-stop art fairs, special exhibits and studio openings in South Florida. Highlights included a visit to the Pérez Art Museum Miami, attending the main Art Basel and Untitled Art fairs as well as various satellite fairs, meeting Puerto Rican American artist and ceramicist Roberto Lugo at the opening of his solo show at The Wolfsonian-FIU museum, and ending the trip at the Rubell Museum Miami and the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse. The work of an FSU MFA Studio Art alum, Mark Creegan, was represented at the Untitled Art fair and he offered a talk to students about his professional journey after completing his master’s degree. Professor Grace Ali arranged access to several events for students, including a roundtable discussion of Artists Addressing Mass Incarceration at the Pérez Art Museum, an open studios brunch tour at the Oolite Arts creative learning center, an Art and Environment Summit with special lunch and discussion curated by the Women Photographers International Archive, and a tour of the Sunshine exhibition by curator Luisa Múnera at the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts’ YoungArts program.
Students shared their enthusiasm throughout the trip. First year MFA student Lua Barbosa was particularly drawn to the work of Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, which was included at Art Basel. “I envy how the artist did a visual synthesis of a theme that touches on so many aspects of my research in such a subtle and efficient manner: relation of human and nature, production and exploitation, and colonization.” Second year MFA student, Iris Schaer, said, “This was such an amazing and thought-provoking experience. It made me think about where my art could live within the greater art world and was a good opportunity to practice ‘talking shop’. I have been inspired by the use of material and processes. It was very cool to see some works that had been mentioned to me by my professors in person!”
Our graduate program is strengthened by building relationships with the larger art communities to which our students are connected. Moreover, experiencing the range and diversity of artists represented in the fairs, galleries, studios, museums, and collections we organize travel to is an essential component of graduate education.