For many programs in Springfield, the summer of 2022 was the return to “normalcy,” including the Missouri Fine Arts Academy (MFAA).
Missouri State University (MSU) has hosted MFAA since its creation in 1996. As a residential program, the academy offers a rigorous two-week experience for highly motivated high school artists in visual arts, theatre, dance, creative writing, and music. This statewide program aims to give these student artists space in an academic setting to start honing their craft.
The curriculum includes interdisciplinary (IDS) courses, which combine multiple art forms into a singular class. This gives students the chance to see how different parts of the arts can be collaborative. For example, one of the courses that was offered this summer was a music and creative writing class. IDS courses also give the faculty an opportunity to collaborate. In addition to faculty-led teaching, students also attend guest artist masterclasses.
Students are not only exposed to many forms of artistry, they also get the opportunity to earn college credit. Upon completion of the program, participants walk away with IDS credits that are transferable toward their pursuit in higher education.
MFAA has had only a few interruptions in its lifetime. Most recently, in 2020, the program was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This summer, the program resumed with Dr. Stephen Spates, interim head of MSU’s Department of Communication, serving as the new director of the academy.
Spates first got involved with MFAA in 2019, as a program assistant. Soon after, he fell in love with the academy’s mission. What truly inspired him was the potential for teamwork.
“I have a wonderful team. Many of them are alumni of MFAA and want to be here because they remember how much the program did for them as a student. Those are the environments I like to create and where I thrive.” —Dr. Stephen Spates
Spates boasted about the support the program has received from the community. Partnerships have formed among MSU and MFAA alumni who offer their services either as guest artists or supporters of the program.
Each year the academy selects a theme to guide the program. Since coming out of the peak of the pandemic, many conversations have centered around reimagining how we live our lives, finding our “new normal.” Spates wanted to draw attention to the strengths that artists bring to communities.
With artists, he explained, they don’t have to “reimagine” because they’ve always been using their imagination. Thus, the theme for MFAA 2022 was simply “Imagine.” Spates went on to say that the 2022 theme was a response to the two years that MFAA was away, but that the academy is back and ready to imagine new possibilities.
Next year’s theme is “Elevate.”
“We’ve imagined, we’ve created, we’ve innovated. Now we’re ready to continue to rise and establish a place and space here for artists who want to perfect their craft,” said Spates.
MFAA is off to a great start for the 2023 season with full funding provided by the state. Spates explained that every student who is accepted to the academy will be financially supported, removing a lot of barriers for applicants.
Despite the twists and turns this program has experienced, MFAA is still committed to furthering the education and opportunities of young artists.