Latest Guides


Ten Contemporary Artists Unite to Sell Works to Fund Tuition-Free Graduate Art Degrees at ArtCenter

A charitable online presentation called Artists for ArtCenter will raise funds for tuition-free graduate scholarships to ArtCenter College of Design

Published on Sunday, July 24, 2022 | 5:26 am

Free Grad Art Advisory Board members include (back row, L to R) Diana Thater, Laura Owens and Aaron Curry; (front row, L to R) Jason Smith, Chris Birchby and Stan Douglas. [© ArtCenter College of Design/Juan Posada]
ArtCenter College of Design faculty members are collaborating with a prominent international art gallery for an exhibition and online sale launched Tuesday which aims to raise funds to establish endowed, tuition-free ArtCenter scholarships for graduate students.

“Our vision is to grow our departments’ endowed scholarship funds and make our program more accessible to more diverse candidates. Ultimately, we want to raise enough money to provide a tuition-free experience for each of the 35 artists enrolled in the MFA program,” explained visual artist Stan Douglas, chair of the Graduate Art department at ArtCenter College of Design.

The inaugural fundraising effort to support the initiative is Artists for ArtCenter, a charitable online presentation conceived in collaboration with New York-based David Zwirner gallery and which launched July 19.

The online presentation features works by the school’s renowned alumni and faculty. All sale proceeds will benefit the Artists for ArtCenter Grad Art Scholarship at ArtCenter College of Design.

The Artists for ArtCenter sale will feature works donated by ArtCenter alumni and faculty members, including Aaron Curry, Stan Douglas, Nathan Hylden, Sharon Lockhart, Ivan Morley, Shahryar Nashat, Joshua Nathanson, Laura Owens, Sterling Ruby, and Diana Thater.

“This is the ideal way for us, as artists, to collectively support the next generation of artists,” said Douglas, who is leading the Free Grad Art initiative with Diana Thater, former chair of ArtCenter’s Graduate Art department and a core faculty member for the last 27 years. 

The Artists for ArtCenter online sale is the realization of a commitment by the Graduate Art faculty and its alumni to generate scholarships and remove the burden of tuition for MFA student artists. Free Grad Art is a key goal of Douglas’ current leadership of the department. In the near future, additional efforts and projects will be announced to support this goal.

Diana Thater’s Natural History One (2019) was donated by the artist and will be a part of the online benefit presentation. This work is currently on view at the lobby entrance of 1111 S. Arroyo Parkway to ArtCenter’s campus in Pasadena. The installation marks the inauguration of ArtCenter Exhibitions’ new 1111 Projects initiative that features a rotating program of important works by the College’s alumni.

Planning for the Free Grad Art scholarship initiative began in 2018. The Department’s full-time faculty decided to form a Grad Art Advisory Board that would be composed of current faculty and select alumni. Current Advisory Board members are Chris Birchby (MFA 01), Aaron Curry (MFA 05), Stan Douglas, Laura Owens, Jason Smith, Bruce Heavin (BFA 93) and Diana Thater (MFA 90).

This board worked to strategically address an issue faced by many North American MFA fine art programs: the rising debt levels of young artists. The high cost of attending the top MFA programs means many artists leave these institutions with crushing debt, conditions that make it difficult to live and work as artists when they leave school. For many excellent young artists, the cost is an insurmountable barrier. While many arts institutions serving the larger art world thrive on the basis of a strong tradition of philanthropy from patrons, support for burgeoning artists in graduate level programs remains largely overlooked.

The Grad Art Advisory Board came up with a new three-pronged approach. They agreed, firstly, MFA candidates need to be considered as artists who will soon enter the art world and need to be treated as such by the gallerists, collectors and institutions they will work with in the coming decades. Secondly, appeals need to be made not only to philanthropists, but to all stakeholders in the art world including foundations, collectors, institutions, gallerists and, importantly, established artists. Thirdly, the Advisory Board decided that the optimal model for raising funds in Free Grad Art’s initial phase would not be to directly solicit donations, or hold a cumbersome auction, the artists on the board would instead sell their works directly through their galleries and, ask the gallerists to cede their usual fee, give the entire proceeds of the sale to scholarships under the Free Grad Art initiative. This initial collaboration between artists and gallerists will, in turn, bear witness to the commitment these two “stakeholders” share toward making it possible for any and all talented, ambitious artists to attend the best MFA programs in North America without regard for cost. It is on the basis of these commitments that a broader base of donors — other artists not affiliated with ArtCenter, gallerists, collectors, and foundations will be approached to join the effort.

ArtCenter’s Graduate Art program is based on intensive studio practice and rigorous academic coursework. 

For more information, visit  

Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.

Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m.

Make a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *