MFA Applied Craft + Design students find inspiration in Joshua Tree

November 18, 2019

Students in the MFA in Applied Craft + Design (AC+D) program recently returned from their annual trip to Joshua Tree, CA. Each year, students travel to the High Desert to visit artist Andrea Zittel’s, A-Z West, "a landmark destination for artists, craftspeople, and designers of all mediums," says Hannah Newman, Program Manager of the AC+D program.

MFA Applied Craft + Design students at Andrea Zittel's AZ West

"Zittel’s fusion of everyday life, art practice, and community into an ongoing, inseparable creative endeavor speaks to the heart of the AC+D program, providing insight and inspiration year after year."

Zittel describes A-Z West as an artwork that is built on more than 70 acres in the California high desert next to Joshua Tree National Park. She considers the project to be "an evolving testing grounds for living," asking the questions: “How to live?” and “What gives life meaning?”

MFA Applied Craft + Design students in Joshua Tree, CA

Beyond A-Z West, students also had the opportunity for studio visits and engagements with Janelle Pietrzak and Robert Dougherty of All Roads Design Studio, Heidi Schwegler of Yucca Valley Material Lab, Noah Purifoy Foundation, Michael and Emily Endo of High Desert Observatory, Boxo Projects, and Dan Anderson!

"For the students, this trip has the potential to brings into focus what I often say: that as makers we are on the front lines of a movement to prioritize ethical, social, and environmental responsibilities in creative economiesThe sites and folks we visit in the High Desert are conducting experiments in living and making that directly speak to these concerns."

"The trip to the high desert takes the students out of the studio and into an experimental landscape where life and practice intersect," says Sara Huston, Chair of the MFA in Applied Craft + Design. "Being able to visit artists in their studios and community spaces helps to pull back the curtain of these entrepreneurial ventures and exposes students to the realities of what it takes to make a life of creative practice. This experience helps to inspire the students to think of their own studio practice in these ways and beautifully aligns with the values of the AC+D program."

Throughout two years of study, AC+D students participate in short immersive trips for communal, radical, and unplugged experiences. These experiences expand and build upon students’ knowledge and connect them to people and places outside of Oregon to provide bursts of inspiration to inject into their studio practice.