A Picture’s Worth Three Words–MassArt at GCC

April 11, 2011

Greenfield Community College/MassArt Students accepted to Yale MFA Program

Yale University’s Masters of Fine Arts Photography program accepts just nine new students each year and, this year, two of those nine students are GCC/MassArt alumni. Katie Koti started at GCC as a Dual Enrollment student while she was in high school and received an Associates of Liberal Arts degree from GCC in 2005. In 2007, Katie received an Associates in Media Arts/Photography that included GCC/MassArt classes. Katie then transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts this year. Now she is studying toward an MFA at Yale. Kate Merrill received a bachelor’s degree from Marlboro College and then took GCC/MassArt classes. Kate used the portfolio she developed in these classes for her application to Yale’s MFA program.

GCC Art students are highly regarded by prestigious art schools around the country. Massachusetts College of Art and Design and GCC are collaborating in offering upper level classes in Photography and Painting at the Greenfield GCC campus. MassArt is a world-class art school with very competitive admissions and is the only state-supported art school in the country. The Art Department at Greenfield Community College has a long history of transferring their students to top schools around the country. GCC is the only College or University that MassArt collaborates with to teach photography and painting courses. Each semester several 300-level/junior level MassArt classes are taught at GCC by GCC faculty. MassArt classes taught at GCC aren’t the only connection between GCC and MassArt. GCC and MassArt also have an articulation agreement that guarantees one place for a transfer student in Photography, Painting, and the Studio for Interrelated Media. Many GCC Art students transfer to and are some of the best students at MassArt.

GCC Art Professor and Photography instructor, Tom Young, said, “The GCC/MassArt courses provide GCC students with a bridge to BFA programs and students from other area colleges and community members the opportunity to take MassArt classes  without going to Boston. These classes include a rich mixture of students with different ages, experiences, and backgrounds. Katie and Kate are examples of two students with different backgrounds who used the GCC/MassArt classes to prepare themselves for more advanced study in photography.”

Katie Koti didn’t always intend to study photography. For a number of years, she’s run a housecleaning business, Koti Cleaning Services, based in Northampton. When she was 27 years old, Katie thought, “If I could do anything, what would I do?” Her answer to that question was “Go to school and make art.” Katie started studying Art at GCC and fell in love with photography. She said, “Tom Young is a major mentor of mine. He is the most influential photography teacher I’ve had at the three schools I’ve attended – GCC, RISD, Yale. No one has been as inspirational to me as Tom.”

When Katie transferred to RISD, she found that she was doing more advanced artwork than many of the RISD juniors in her classes. She also found that when other students at RISD first heard that she’d transferred from a community college, they made assumptions that Katie hadn’t had as rigorous training as they had. When they saw the artwork she produced, they often asked, “Where did you say you went to school before RISD?”

Katie said, “I’ve learned a lot at each of the schools I’ve attended, it’s important to have feedback from different faculty and students. However, there is nothing as nurturing or special as the experience I had in GCC’s Art Department. In general, GCC as a school enables people who may not have money or support from family members to take a step forward with their education. I was a non-traditional student, 27 years old, GCC had great financial aid, and it helped me take a step I could take. When I started, I had no idea what I would do beyond taking some art classes at GCC. GCC opened up all these other doors and many other possibilities I hadn’t imagined.”

Kate Merrill had her first experience with photography and visual arts as an undergraduate student at Marlboro College from 1998 to 2002. There she took courses from long-time Marlboro faculty member John Willis. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Marlboro, Kate worked at a variety of jobs, but maintained her connection with photography by working with a children’s photography program. In 2005, Kate decided she wanted to go to graduate school and applied to several programs. Kate said, “It didn’t go well.” Determined,  she emailed John Willis and told him she’d like to take more classes in photography. Willis recommended the MassArt classes at Greenfield Community College.

Kate enrolled in a MassArt photography class at GCC, intending to take just that one class. She continued for a year and half. Kate said, “Tom is a great instructor, providing an outstanding level of criticism and support. He is both very inspiring and very challenging. When I enrolled in that first class, I was older and knew what I wanted. That class was so dynamic, including a very diverse group of students. It was very helpful to get feedback from such a wide range of people. After that first class, I was hooked.”

Kate’s experience at GCC enabled her to be successful in her application to the MFA program at Yale. She said, “The classes I took from Tom taught me how to look at images, how to build a body of work and prepare a portfolio to use for applying to graduate school. I would never have been accepted into Yale’s MFA program without my GCC/MassArt and Marlboro experiences. And, because of the high level of support and critique I experienced at GCC/MassArt and Marlboro, I was well prepared for the level of the courses I’m now taking at Yale. The nature of GCC is that it is the beginning of something for its students. At GCC, a small idea can get as big as you want.”

In addition to photography classes, MassArt Painting classes are taught at GCC. Tom Young said, “GCC Professor Budge Hyde is teaching the MassArt Painting classes.  Budge has a long standing reputation as one of the most vibrant and powerful Professors of Art in the Pioneer Valley. Many of his MassArt students have gone on to various graduate and undergraduate programs throughout the country.”

For information about GCC/MassArt classes taught at GCC, contact Tom Young, young@gcc.mass.edu, 413-775-1239 or Paul Lindale, Art Department Chair, at Lindale@gcc.mass.edu, 413-775-1241.

Mary McClintock, ’82