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Presented by MFA Illustration as Visual Essay

We Tell Stories

November 4 - December 17, 2014
A display table before a wall covered in paintings of people.
"We Tell Stories"
Credit: Photo: Stan Narten


Tue, Nov 11; 6:00 - 8:00pm

School of Visual Arts presents “We Tell Stories,” an exhibition of work by more than 350 artists who graduated with an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay in the 30 years since the degree was first offered. Curated by founding chair Marshall Arisman, “We Tell Stories” surveys the vitality and versatility of contemporary figurative artists through thousands of works: editorial art, children’s books, comics, graphic novels, animations, products, paintings and more.

“If, in the past 30 years you bought a book because of its cover, thumbed through the illustrations in a magazine or newspaper, read a children’s book to your child, thought a graphic novel or comic would make a great movie, purchased an app for your iPhone or visited a gallery, you have seen the art of our alumni,” Arisman said.

“We Tell Stories” will include work by notable alumni including George Boorujy, Viktor Deak, Brian Pinkney, Brian Floca, Nathan Fox, John Hendrix, Olivier Kugler, Allison Moritsugu, J. Stephen Savage, Yuko Shimizu, Sara Varon, Sam Weber and Martin Wittfooth. A highlight of the exhibition will be a children’s reading room—furnished and designed by alumni Sara Varon and Aya Kakeda—with more than 200 illustrated books by MFA Illustration alumni. 

In 1984, illustrator, painter, educator and storyteller Marshall Arisman initiated a groundbreaking new graduate program at SVA in response to the prevailing distinction between “illustrators” and “artists.” Technology was giving rise to online media and self-publishing, making it possible for figurative artists with an interest in storytelling to gain control over the content of their work. Unlike the conventional approach to teaching illustration, MFA Illustration as Visual Essay empowers artists to develop a personal voice.

The success of this approach is evident in the program’s enduring sphere of influence, which extends to media outlets and publishing houses from The New Yorker, The New York Times and National Geographic to Scholastic, Abrams, HarperCollins and Farrar, Strauss, Giroux. Of its approximately 600 graduates, many have been represented in every major publication and in museums and galleries around the world. They have earned distinctions including the Caldecott Award, Gold and Silver medals from the Society of Illustrators, and top industry honors from the American Library Association, Library Journal, and the Art Directors Club.

MFA Illustration as Visual Essay at SVA is designed to maximize students’ opportunities as figurative artists, from the conventional gallery wall to the full range of digital, print and online media. The program fuses the development of creative thinking with technical and communication skills. Additional focus is placed on best practices in navigating the visual art marketplace while empowering students to choose making art as a way of life. The two-year, 60-credit curriculum capitalizes on students’ technique and promotes the development of a strong personal viewpoint. 

Free and open to the public