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Otis College MFA Open Studios Provides Community Connection and Artistic Showcase

Artists at the 2019 Open Studios. Photos by Monica Nouwens.
Halley Sutton ‘18

Otis College of Art and Design MFA students showcased their work during the Otis College Open Studios on April 14, 2019. The event included the work from graduate students, including visual artists, graphic designers, performance artists, and writers who read from their work while members of the community visited the open studios, pondering colorful and thought-provoking pieces.

During the three hour event, over 50 Otis College graduate students displayed work for the public at the graduate studios in Culver City. Friends, family members, and art lovers had the opportunity to visit the studios for a few hours Sunday afternoon, where they were entertained by live music along with the studio offerings.

And while the Open Studios gave the Los Angeles community a chance to connect with these emerging artists, it also gave Otis College artists a chance to connect with each other. Jenna Dorian, MFA Writing ’20, says the chance to read in a space with visual artists presented a unique opportunity for connection and community. “I really like being amidst other people’s vulnerabilities as you’re being vulnerable,” Dorian says. “It’s a comforting experience.”


Practicing professionalism

An annual tradition, Open Studios offer an opportunity for MFA students to practice how to arrange work in their studios, or how to read or perform their work, in advance of Otis College’s Annual Exhibition in May. For many of these students, it might be the first time that their work has been publicly displayed in a community setting.

Take James Enriquez, for example. Enriquez has displayed his work in other venues, including for the Ventura County Counsel, but each experience offers another opportunity to make connections. “For me to make it [art] without someone to view it is fruitless,” said Enriquez. Enriquez work spanned colorful canvases in conversation with one another, with series selections from his time at Otis College that build on each other in tone and color.

Some students put together hybrid programming. For example, Derek Prado, MFA Fine Arts ’20, created both visual displays—that reflected the complicated interplay of industry and nature—and a live performance, called Time Pole Stress, that spoke to the themes of the effect of the environment and surroundings on human experience. Prado pursues different mediums to achieve the same message and after he graduates from Otis College, he intends to pursue a career that allows him to create spaces for ecology planning to make Los Angeles more livable.


Technology meets art

The MFA Graphic Design cohort hosted a unique display of augmented reality art, entitled The Beautiful Exhibition. The Beautiful Exhibition was accessed by scanning a QR code on mobile devices—simply taking a photo on your camera is enough to direct you to the website that houses the exhibit.

Lorna Alkana, MFA Graphic Design ’20, said the exhibit had its roots in a survey that was conducted by graphic design students on “what is beautiful.” From the results of that survey, the graphic design cohort made 30 works of art that incorporated those elements most frequently considered beautiful. Alkana says the exhibit is “an exploration of invisible beauty.” The chance to work on the augmented technology app presented a unique challenge for the cohort, which had to figure out how to anchor the digital art to a changing landscape. But the project was so successful that it lives on at

The Otis College MFA Open Studios provided an opportunity for the Los Angeles artistic community to see what MFA students have been up to this year. From landscape photographs to installations and hybrid audio-visual reading performances, it was a display of the artistry that Otis College has to offer at its finest: diverse, social-minded, collaborative, and accomplished.

The public will have another opportunity to see the work of MFA students at the Otis College Annual Exhibition. MFA Writing students will host a reading on Friday, May 10 at 7:30pm and MFA Fine Arts students will have a group show in the Bolsky Gallery throughout the weekend. For more information visit,

All photos by Monica Nouwens.