A printmaker and assemblage artist, John Gutoskey was inspired to return for a Master’s in Fine Art later in life than many of his peers. He’s filled his three years as a graduate student at U-M with a significant list of accomplishments, attributing some of this drive to the fact that he’s a non-traditional student.
While he has seen many M.F.A. students initially struggle with the balance of a program that is split evenly between studio practice and creative and scholarly research, he adjusted to the scholarship aspect of the program by diving in headfirst. “Once I heard about the certificate program in LGBTQ studies, I said ‘Where do I sign up?” He was already making work about gay identity and queer social issues, so it seemed like the perfect fit. As a bonus for John, the Department of Women’s Studies, along with Rackham, offered and oversaw the LGBTQ Studies Certificate. John knew about the incredible international reputation of the Women’s Studies department and the phenomenal faculty, and decided it was just too good an opportunity to pass up. It was also how he heard about the Community of Scholars Fellowship, also co-sponsored by Rackham.
Pursuing an M.F.A. and LGBTQ Certificate simultaneously was a huge challenge in terms of the workload, but the interdisciplinary program created a richness that made graduate school overall an amazing experience. “I feel like I’ve gotten a great education,” he says. “I’m a printmaker, inspired by gay identity and social issues. Through my scholarship at U-M, I can create and explain the art I’ve made in grad school and the work I have been creating for the last twenty years in a more thoughtful and theoretical way.”
John was intrigued by the Community of Scholars (COS) program co-sponsored by Rackham and the Institute for Women and Gender which supports U-M graduate students who are engaged in research, scholarship, or other creative activities that focus on women and/or gender.
“COS was intimidating at first, but such a great opportunity I had to apply,” John says. “I did not consider myself a scholar, as I am, first and foremost, an artist and designer. Luckily for me, COS was also looking for students in master’s degree programs who are doing creative work that focuses on women and gender.” COS ended up being one of the best experiences during his 3 years of graduate school. He attributes his selection as a scholar to the rigorous academics required through the dual Master of Fine Arts and LGBTQ Studies Certificate classes. “No one from Art & Design had been involved for over 8 years, and I think I was able to describe and frame my work through a more scholarly and theoretical lens in the project abstract on the application; I believe this only happened because of the foundation laid through the certificate work in LGBTQ Studies.” During the COS seminars in May and June, he explains that he gained an understanding of other students’ work on women and gender from a wide variety of fields and perspectives. It also helped him to deepen his own scholarship and theory as it related to his M.F.A. thesis writing and then bring those ideas into his studio work.
John hopes to teach once he graduates this May. He also plans to continue to do scholarly and creative research, as well as create new artwork. To see his work, please visit his upcoming show at Work/Ann Arbor Gallery on State Street from March 11th to April 2nd. There will be an opening reception Friday March 14th from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Check the Stamp’s School of Art & Design website for days and times.