MFA Never 2020

Juried by Kevin B. Chen, Eleanor Harwood & Marie Martraire
Jan 6, 2020

Root Division biannually showcases the work of current MFA candidates in the Bay Area through an exhibition and archive project called MFA Now. For 2020, we are choosing to to highlight the many talented and successful artists who have opted out of the degree route for one reason or another, in a counterpoint juried exhibition called MFA Never. This will be the second iteration of MFA Never, which was first showcased in 2016 in response to the national dialogue on the valuation of advanced art degrees. Similar to MFA Now, MFA Never will include an exhibition and catalog publication. Jurors are Kevin B. Chen and Marie Martraire.

MFA Never was conceptualized by Root Division's Curatorial Committee member, Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen, to create opportunity for underrepresented artists, those who are unaffiliated with alumni networks, and may have not had the debut opportunity offered by the MFA thesis exhibition. MacFadyen is the founder of Black & White Projects and A Simple Collective, a contemporary arts organization dedicated to, "access, equality, ingenuity, creativity, and independence.l. The goal of the MFA Never project is to create room for dialogue around alternatives to the MFA route, especially in thinking about how higher education can be exclusive in terms of financial viability, and in representing artists of color, queer artists, "outsider" artists etc. We are looking to create visibility for artists who have found a life and practice in the visual arts outside of the academic machine.


The MFA Never 2020 catalog is an inclusionary publication of all eligible applicants, set to be released in March 2020. All eligible artists who submit to MFA Never 2020 will be featured in this archive. The book includes a full page dedicated to each contributing artist and a compilation of essays by Root Division staff, and the panel of exhibition jurors, serving to unpack some of the issues surrounding decisions to not pursue higher education, navigate the contemporary moment in Bay Area outside of the MFA Programs, and find connections between the exhibiting artists.


Jurors: Submissions will be reviewed by a panel of arts professionals. List of jurors to be announced shortly.

The jurors will select up to twenty works from the submitted archive materials to be shown in Root Division's gallery for the month of March 2020. An opening reception will be held on March 14, 2020, and will also serve as the archive release party. To be considered for the exhibition, artists must complete the entire submissions process for the archive. The juror will review all submissions. We will notify selected artists of their inclusion in the exhibition by January 21, 2020. (Please note that the piece(s) in the submitted image should be available for exhibition for the entire month of March 2020.)

Applicant Eligibility:

In order to be eligible for the MFA Never submitting visual artists must:

- Live in one of the 9 Bay Area Counties

Should meet at least 2 of the following criteria:
- Been included in an exhibition to the public or publication within the past 18 months
- Have an undergraduate degree in fine arts or related field
- Currently be a practicing artist (made new work within the past 12 months)
- Define yourself as a working / professional/ emerging visual artist*
“Visual Arts” (for the purpose of this opportunity) include sculpture, painting, drawing, film/video, photography, ceramics, textiles/ fiber arts, new genres, film/ cinema, design & technology, conceptual and Information Arts, intermedia/installation and social practice.

About the Jurors:
Kevin B. Chen
Kevin B. Chen has been involved in the Bay Area arts community for over two decades as a visual artist, curator, and educator. He currently serves as faculty at San Francisco State University’s School of Art and at Stanford University’s Department of Art and Art History, a member of Recology's Artist in Residence Program Advisory Board, and a Curatorial Committee member of Root Division and Pro Arts Gallery. He recently served as co-chair for the City of Oakland's Public Art Advisory Committee and managed the de Young Museum’s Artist Residency Program and Public Programs. He has curated projects for Headlands Center for the Arts, Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries, University of Nevada Reno, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Francisco Art Institute, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SOMArts Cultural Center, and Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco & Kearny Street Workshop. Previously he served as Programs Manager at Kala Art Institute, and Program Director of Visual Arts at Intersection for the Arts for over 15 years, where he curated over 70 exhibitions and hundreds of public programs. He received his BA from Columbia University in Psychology and East Asian Languages & Cultures and is represented by Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco, CA.

Eleanor Harwood
Eleanor Harwood is the Director of The Eleanor Harwood Gallery, which opened September 2006. The programming of the gallery focuses on emerging to mid-career artists exhibiting nationally and internationally. The roster includes artists that are represented in major collections. The gallery actively promotes and encourages career growth for represented artists.

Eleanor Harwood curated the Adobe Books backroom gallery from the end of 2002-2006. She is also a painter and has worked on various curatorial projects in the Bay Area. Primarily exhibiting painting, drawing and sculpture, the gallery specializes in work with complex craft and concept. The gallery’s aesthetic often includes meticulous work not so much for its order but for its integrity of purpose.

Marie Martraire
Marie Martraire is the director of KADIST San Francisco. She has curated exhibitions as well as performance and film programs locally and internationally. Her writings have been published in Journal for Curatorial Studies, Journal for Chinese Contemporary Art, LEAP Magazine, Art Practical, and SFAQ, among others.

Application Materials:

1. Completed online application form:

2. $20 Submission Fee:
Covers an MFA Never candidate's inclusion in the MFA Never 2020 Archive, a copy of the archive, and a chance to be in the MFA Never 2020 exhibition at Root Division. Copies of the archive will be available at the opening and during gallery hours throughout the exhibition. Please note that the $20 fee must be on file by 1/6/20 for the email submission to be considered.

3. Email your image to submissions@rootdivision... The file should be titled LastName_FirstName.tif
Please note for artists submitting video: Please submit a video still (at specs listed above) for print in the publication. For juror review, include a link to the video at the end of the statement section on the online application. For best results, we highly recommend links to Vimeo or YouTube rather than individual websites.

Thank you!