Interview with Ms. Mette Hansen, Division Chair

Interview with Ms. Mette Hansen, Division Chair

at The Connecticut Institute of Art

What advantages do employees with a graduate degree in the visual arts bring to your company?

They are well-trained and versed in areas that they can then pass on to our students. A Degree is invaluable and cannot be replaced merely by experience. In addition, we find that they are able to teach many various types of courses. For instance we have one instructor who teaches "Drawing I and II" but also "Art History". His knowledge has been gained from his own studies. This is good for an institution such as ours because it means we do not need to go looking elsewhere for additional instructors. For the instructor it's a plus because they can handle more classes in our school; thus higher overall income.

Are there specific positions at your business that must be filled by employees with a graduate degree?

No, not particularly. We have fine Arts Instructors and Computer Software Instructors. If they are knowledgeable in their field…have a proven track record in the industry; that's what we are interested in. We are a very small Commercial and Fine Arts school and offer our graduates a two-year Diploma upon graduation.

When considering candidates for employment, how important is their graduate school's reputation?

At the Connecticut Institute of Art, we are looking for talent. An instructor's background within their field will prove more important on an employment level than the school(s) they attended; this is in part due to the average age of instructors (roughly 45 - 50). At that stage in their lives, what impresses upon an employer is their "Success" in the Commercial Art world. We would be far more impressed by a candidate's success rate post - college than if they, for example, told us they had graduated from Harvard. However, if two people are vying for the same position, an MFA will most likely be chosen for the position.

What advice can you give to graduating MA/MFA students on how to find and get the best job?

The same advice I give our graduates. Having an MFA does not make it necessarily easier to find a job, so follow the same steps ALL graduates do. Put together an outstanding resume. Tailor cover letters to each and every employer you send a resume to. Put together a "sell" sheet that exemplifies your best work. Identify the various employers you would like to work for. An MFA has "earned" the right to apply to some of the top Graphics/Advertising/Fine Arts Companies. However they should not necessarily expect that holding an MFA will earn them an "Art Director's" Position. That is something that is often proven within the field. Arrange the cover letter, resume and Sell sheet on sharp, professional paper and send to as many companies as you possibly can. I have done this for seven years and I have found that this is one almost sure-bet way to find employment. Employers are impressed by this individualized effort. The area where an MFA DOES differ from any other graduate is salary. They have spent more time in school, spent far more money on their studies. Employers realize this; thus they tend to pay more in general to an individual who holds an MFA/MA.

Do you recruit from any specific art schools/colleges for employees? Why or why not?

No, we do not. The answer to this lies above in a previous answer. We think that what matters most is the individual's personal success within their field. A Harvard graduate who has done little since graduating versus a Fashion Institute of Technology whose work is renowned and displayed in various museums. Not a tough choice at all.

What's the salary range for a newly-hired MA/MFA graduate?

This depends on what they are teaching: Fine Arts: $25/hour; Computer instructors: $45/hour Why? Because it has to do with what professionals in each respective field can command on a freelance basis. We cannot hire an instructor to teach Web Design (HTML or Flash) for less because they would most likely choose NOT to teach, but rather to freelance their time elsewhere.

How is the job market right now for MA/MFA graduates?

I really cannot personally answer that because we have not had to hire too many instructors lately. My guess, based upon the current economic structure is….not too good. In such an economy, companies feel a crunch and look to downsize. They unfortunately often cut those making more income…in turn they hire individuals who are willing to take much less and, therefore, produce equivalently. In a good economy, MFA's are much stronger. They can command higher salaries, and are usually desired far and above BFA's or simple Diploma's. For those MFA's interested in teaching: there may be a very different picture in schools. We did not cut back salaries or instructors. So at the College-level, the circumstances for an MFA may still be positive.

Tell us about some of your MA/MFA employees.

A few of ours are currently doing a great deal of Fine Arts work outside of the school. One has done some work on murals that have been used for movie posters. Another has work featured in museums. In general, they decided to pursue an MFA precisely because they wanted to teach in a school. Their specific talents led to various freelance positions, which in turn led to becoming recognized in their field. Our Dean of Education is also an MFA graduate. I would have to say that the fact that he has the MFA has helped a great deal in his case. He is overlooking a department and therefore should have more qualifications than the other instructors. His work is, as well, displayed in museums and he has sold many murals to corporations in the area. He also runs a small studio at his home in which he privately tutors some of the area's residents in fine art techniques.

What does your company do?

We are a two year Commercial and Fine Arts School located in Greenwich, Connecticut. We start our students with a Fine Arts program within the first year to build a basic knowledge that combines color, texture, line, form, structure and technique. To build a personal portfolio, they continue some of this in the second year while combining this with various computer skills: QuarkXPress, Illustrator, Photoshop, Didgital Prepress and Web Design (Basic). We also offer continuing education courses extended to those who are currently in the Commercial arts field so that they may maintain or update their skills. We find, interestingly, that some of our current students under the latter distinction are MFA's. Schools such as ours are a great resource for continual knowledge.

Employer Profile: The Connecticut Institute of Art

Number of Employees: 20

Salary range for your MA/MFA graduates: Our pay structure is based more upon who's teaching what. Fine Arts Instructors: $25/hour. Computer Arts: $45/hour

Degrees important to your hiring decisions: BFA combined with a minimum level of years in the field.

Your Mission: To train individuals in a method we call "Pigments to Pixels." We recognize the importance of using the most modern of tools for design - the computer. However the computer is not a substitute for art & design. To be truly marketable and successful, graduates need many skills. Our goal is to prepare our graduates for entry-level positions in the field of commercial art.

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