Questions from Elena Fesenko August 2019
Student of University of Vienna, department of Art History
Answered by Sadie Edginton
Who are the founders of AltMFA program? (Professional background)
Louise Ashcroft and Lucie Garland founded AltMFA it in 2010
What is the duration of the course?
You can join for one day or just keep coming back for ever. It isn't a 'course' as such. We have members that have been in it for 9 years to one day. It's almost like a cross between a network, a collective and an alternative educational project. You can come when you are available, you do not have to come all the time. In the past things were planned on Mondays nearly every week, but recently that structure doesn't seem to be sustainable for the current group.
Does AltMFA provide any kind of diploma or academic degree?
Who conducts the selection of participants?
There is no selection process, people just come along to a session. We have some sessions which are shared by email to people who have enquired about AltMFA, but the core group communicate via a google group email system. When we have sessions with speakers or events we advertise them more openly on social media and email around to interested people.
Does AltMFA have any entrance exams?
Who can be a participant?
Anyone, although it tends to be focussed around artists with a contemporary art, visual/ sound/ performance/ live art output, we have long term members who are writers, librarians, musicians, street artists, or who used to do or study art and so on. Some members have art BA's and MA's and some have not been to art school, some studied art but are now too busy, or have lost touch with their artistic practice. I would say most have been through some kind of art related education in the past though, and some have been inspired to do formal masters after joining or alongside being actively part of AltMFA. As the two are so different, but can compliment each other well.
Is it necessary to have any professional art education (BFA, alternative art school) for participation?
No, see above.
How many participants are accepted?
There isn't a fixed acceptance rate or amount of members. The group just naturally plateaus out. We have about 40 in the mail group, but around 8 – 12 people come each week, other than when we have special sessions or events when we might advertise more widely and have around 20 – 25 people attending depending on the venue and the content. Its nice to have intimate events which are different to the lecture.
Does AltMFA have any age limits for participation?
How does AltMFA set the schedule up?
It is voluntarily and self organised, so any organisation happens on top of peoples full-time jobs, studying and other commitments, so it is entirely on members to make things happen. Recently we have tried to create a spreadsheet of dates, venues that we use and people add there planned event to this. Although it is mostly a small group of people who do most of the organising, this isn't sustainable so that a new model is always being looked for. Admin and labour are quite big issues for us. Perhaps a model where everyone who joins is allocated a date to organise a session could work. We are always finding this a problem that people seem to think it is more of a formal course, when it is actually quite an informal self-organised network.
What is the form of classes: workshops, lectures, guided tours, studio visits, exhibitions?
We have sessions on Monday from 6:30pm to 9pm. During the term time there is the option of doing something every Monday if enough people want to attend. We usually have a long break during the summer. In this session time, the format can be anything, we have had experimental formats, dance sessions, walks, talks, lectures, theory, sonic meditations, reading groups, social sessions in pubs, BBQ's in members gardens, dinners, picnics in central London parks, visited studios, museums, galleries, crits, the Thames beach, and weekend trips as well as annual week-long residencies in Guest Projects, Hackney and two week long trips to the Lake District to Merz Barn. We regularly book out activist spaces and free spaces that we have come to develop a relationship with.
Does AltMFA provide any assignments for the members of the program?
No, although sometimes we have reading related to sessions.
Who are the speakers/guests of the course?
We invite artists and experts on anything we are interested in to be speakers, as well as AltMFA members leading reading groups and talks on their research or projects or leading experimental sessions, such as a 'silent session'. In the last year we had a session on radical permaculture, we did a series of reading groups on cultural studies and Stuart Hall, Fanon, we had a group show for Artlicks in an old tube station office, we had talks by artists who had written books, a PHD candidate from Belfast about her Critical Pedagogy research, and many more examples.
Does AltMFA have any final paper/final exhibition or any final examination for participants?
No it is very informal, and more like an artist network, exploring learning and arts practice and whatever may come to inform that or be of interest.
Does AltMFA have any kind of sponsorship/funding/donation?
Not currently, although we did receive £3000 from the AN Group Bursary in 2017, which we were able to use to create 'The Future' programme of 10 lectures/ workshops by well known artists and practitioners, and create 10 artistic responses by AltMFA members, which we put into a publication. See more about this online.
Does AltMFA have any specific place for events?
Yes we have begun to use in the past year two different activist spaces, May Day Rooms and LARC (London Action Resource Centre). As well as regular pubs that we know which are quiet or have space on Mondays, and peoples houses which are near to most members across London.