The 2023 University of Washington MFA + MDes Thesis Exhibition was presented by the Henry Art Gallery from May 27 through June 25, 2023. Throughout their programs, art and design students work with advisers and other artists or designers to develop advanced techniques, expand concepts, discuss critical issues, and emerge with a vision and direction for their own work. The Henry staff conducts two studio visits and works closely with the students to facilitate their projects and prepare them for exhibition at the museum.
The 2023 UW MFA + MDes Thesis Exhibition was organized by Eric Zimmerman, Exhibition Designer and Preparator, and Rachel Ann Kessler, Senior Preparator.
The Henry Art Gallery was founded as Washington State’s first art museum in 1927 by Horace C. Henry, on the principle that art stimulates inquiry, fosters knowledge, and builds healthy communities. Today, the Henry is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the research and presentation of contemporary art. We engage artists to consider the museum as a studio or laboratory for creativity, and our exhibitions and programs invite audiences to push the boundaries of traditional thinking. In all that we do, we live our mission: to engage all people in the transformative power of contemporary art and ideas.
This year, the Henry and the University of Washington’s School of Art + Art History + Design celebrate over 60 years of partnering in presenting the work of graduating Masters Degree students. The Henry’s presentation of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) + Master of Design (MDes) Thesis Exhibition is a hallmark of our commitment to supporting artistic innovation and a culture of creativity campus-wide. We serve as a cultural resource and training ground—opening our doors and resources without charge—for over 65,000 students, faculty, and staff.
The museum actively participates in the academic life of University students by offering jointly developed courses, student internships, practicums, and work-study opportunities, and we collaborate with over 35 academic departments across campus. The Henry encourages access to, and research of the 28,000 objects in our permanent collection through our Eleanor Henry Reed Collection Study Center, the only facility of its kind in the region, where visitors can study from original works of art.
It is a pleasure and a privilege to celebrate the achievements of this year’s graduates in art and design. For many students, this has been their first experience working with a professional museum staff and crew. Special recognition goes to Eric Zimmerman, Henry Exhibitions Designer and Preparator, with collaborative support from Rachel Ann Kessler, Lead Preparator, who have worked with students throughout the year to develop their installations and realize their visions. Thanks also go to our colleagues at the School of Art + Art History + Design, in particular Jamie Walker, Director, and members of the faculty for partnering in this initiative.
Above all, we thank this year’s graduates for making the art and design that is the subject of this exhibition and for sharing with us this important juncture in their lives. We applaud them for their educational achievements and wish them the very best as they launch their careers.
John S. Behnke Director
Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington
For this particular graduate class, the years at the UW have been marked by oh so many unforeseen challenges. So much of the all-encompassing and precious experience that graduate school affords was disrupted by forces brought upon all of us during these particular times. I am especially grateful and proud to have watched this cohort rise to meet these extraordinary challenges with creativity, grace and pro-active determination. The successful completion of their degrees has been fulfilled with passion and the thoughtful consideration of the issues, ideas, and experiences that permeate the world we live in.
A sense of completion, achievement, and reflection is palpable in the works brought together in this Graduate Showcase. More so than ever, this journey has not been a solitary endeavor, but rather is made possible by an essential and supportive community that includes fellow students, family, friends, distinguished visitors, staff, and faculty. I especially want to acknowledge the support and mentorship offered by our faculty and staff who are so committed to creating an educational environment where our graduate students are able to thrive.
I want to recognize and thank Shin Yu Pai, Rock Hushka, Stefan Gonzales, Sadaf Sadri, and Heidi Biggs, for their efforts and insights gleaned during their interviews with the Art and Design grads.
Thanks so much for the collective and enthusiastic support of the entire Henry Art Gallery team, with special thanks to Sylvia Wolf, director, along with exhibition designers and preparators Rachel Ann Kessler and Eric Zimmerman. The opportunity for our graduate students to exhibit their thesis work in such a special space is a fitting capstone to their graduate careers.
I hope you enjoy exploring this online showcase where you will discover how each graduate student transformed their ideas, passions, and skills into a body of research that reflects and addresses the opportunities, challenges, wonder, confusion, and joy of the world we all inhabit.
On behalf of the School of Art + Art History + Design, congratulations to the Graduate Class of 2023!
Director, School of Art + Art History + Design
Wyckoff Milliman Endowed Chair in Art