Utica Campus Celebrates 20 Years with Brooklyn Art School
Some of the next generation of artists are making their debut right here in the Mohawk Valley.
For 20 years, the PrattMWP College of Art and Design has been training young artists at the prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The college, integrated into downtown Utica, expanded and refined its product after becoming an extension campus of the Pratt Institute.
Today, approximately 200 freshman and sophomore students begin their art school experience at PrattMWP, which is part of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute School of Art. After two years, they can move to the main campus of the Pratt Institute to graduate.
For current students like Monica Darrell, the Pratt Institute is the dream. PrattMWP offered Darrell an affordable option after being put on the main campus waiting list.
âIt’s interesting,â she said. “It’s definitely a small campus, but I’m getting to know more of the people who are on my campus instead of being in a really big school where I don’t know anyone, which makes things a lot easier.”
Coming to Utica, Darrell said there was more one-on-one time with teachers and in the studio than there would be at a larger school. There may be less to do in Utica than in Brooklyn, but it has helped her stay focused on her schoolwork as an illustration specialist, she said.
âI feel like the professors here really want to see us improve our art and see us grow as artists and are really there for our best interests,â Darrell said.
One of the reasons for PrattMWP’s success is that students can focus on their studies and receive more attention, said Acting Dean Ken Marchione. The quality of the students at MWPAI’s art school caught the attention of the Pratt Institute over two decades ago.
“I think it’s really a point of pride for the faculty and the administration here, is that the quality is so good that it has attracted one of the best art schools in the world here in Utica.” , said Marchione.
It’s not just the instructor’s attention that benefits students who move to the main campus. When they leave the Utica campus, they are accompanied by at least 90 people they know and the confidence of a supportive environment, Marchione said.
For Tania Alvarez, a 2003 graduate of PrattMWP, the program provided a smooth transition to the Pratt Institute. Growing up in a small town, Alvarez didn’t have a good idea of ââthe best art schools and was encouraged to visit the Utica campus by his high school art teacher.
âI think for me it was a little more comfortable because it was kind of like a stepping stone to something bigger,â Alvarez said.
Now a professional artist with a Masters degree from the New York Academy of Art, Alvarez has been able to explore different mediums such as photography and jewelry making at PrattMWP.
âIt really paved the way for me to know where I wanted to be in the art world or just give me a variety of skills to go to Brooklyn,â she said.
While in Utica, Alvarez said teachers knew the names of the students and what they needed help with. Her current work in dry media is affected by her time on campus and the artists she met there.
âTo this day, I still think it was the best educational experience I’ve had,â Alvarez said. âThey really tailored their classes to make you feel seen and special, and it was small enough that the teachers could come and talk to you and help you in a way that a bigger campus wouldn’t. . “
Make the Pratt connection
The discussion about transforming MWPAI into a Pratt Institute campus began over 20 years ago, said Anna Tobin D’Ambrosio, president and CEO of the art institute.
At the time, the art institute offered an associate’s degree through Mohawk Valley Community College. In the end, the students would apply as transfer students to other schools, like Pratt, to complete their four-year degree.
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With a good number of students heading to the main Pratt campus, the idea of ââa Utica campus sprang up in the late 1990s. The partnership enabled the construction of a student center, a university building, two student apartment buildings and two parking lots, completed in 2000. The first students arrived later that year.
Now on its 20th anniversary, affiliation with the Pratt Institute paves the way for students for a smooth transition from Utica to Brooklyn.
âThey are fully licensed Pratt students from the start,â D’Ambrosio said. âSo they have Pratt emails, Pratt transcripts, etc. ”
The Utica campus draws on students from across the country and abroad. About 25% of the class entering PrattMWP comes from countries other than the United States.
âThe combination of MWPAI’s distinguished artistic community and Pratt’s solid reputation and curriculum has developed into a focused, passionate and supportive learning environment attracting young artists and designers from around the world,â said Pratt Institute president Frances Bronet said in an email.
The PrattMWP Extension Campus is an alternative route to a Pratt degree, with cheaper tuition and an opportunity to start in a more intimate setting outside of a big city like New York, Bronet said.
âPratt then benefits by welcoming around 85 to 100 exceptionally talented students in their first year,â Bronet said.
PrattMWP at 20
Munson-Williams will celebrate the anniversary in his relationship with the Pratt Institute starting October 2 with the exhibit 20: PrattMWP Celebrating 20 Years. Showcasing 20 artists – one per student year – the exhibit is available in the PrattMWP gallery and in the art institute’s sculpture grove.
PrattMWP, which is one of 25 buildings and 10 acres of Utica occupied by MWPAI, is expected to continue to evolve. The arts institute has invested millions in its properties and will continue to invest millions more, D’Ambrosio said.
Changes on the horizon include different signage and landscaping to help Utica residents and visitors know when they’re on campus.
âOur footprint in the neighborhood is really pretty big,â D’Ambrosio said.
Marchione said she is frequently asked what has changed over the past 20 years. Although there are new buildings, students want to be artists and take on bigger careers as creators, he said.
While drawing and painting were the primary focus, there is more emphasis on video, photography and computer art, Marchione said.
âIt creates a slightly different origin story for each of these students as they enter this field,â he said. “I think that’s a big part of school, that as we move through the 21st century here, we’re always reinventing our school.”
Steve Howe is the town reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email him at [email protected]