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An Interview with Lisa Beard, Maine Media MFA Alum and Recent Participant in the Homecoming Biennial Exhibition of MFA Graduates from Around the World

Homecoming 1 - By Lisa Beard
Image by Lisa Beard
Written by Tessa Rosenberry
Date: December 19, 2023



This Fall, a recent graduate of the MFA in Media Arts program, Lisa Beard, was selected to participate with 130 other artists in the Homecoming Biennial Exhibition and professional development weekend at the Rochester Institute of Technology venue, City Art Space. Beard is a photo-based artist living and working outside of Chicago.

The exhibition features the work of the selected artists, all of whom are recent graduates of MFA programs around the world, and provides them with the opportunity to attend a weekend of professional development workshops and free portfolio reviews, which took place this month. Additionally, a published exhibition catalog is provided to participants for free and mailed to curators, editors, writers, and other decision-makers in the photographic community. 

Beard graduated from the Maine Media College low-residency MFA in Media Arts program in November of 2022. The work she submitted to Homecoming was created throughout her time in the program and represents the evolution and expansion of her visual expression. She says:

“There is a story behind all of my work as it is conceptual, but the most important thing to know is that it all fits together and keeps building. The way I look at it is that I am surrounding an idea in multiple ways visually, and each semester’s work, as well as the work I am continuing to make, are smaller pieces that fit into a larger whole.”

About her experience participating in the exhibition and professional development weekend, Beard says that her experiences during Homecoming contributed to her continued growth as an artist: 

“It was about the entire weekend… being selected with so many talented MFA grads from so many good schools from all over the world, and then being able to be together, to talk, and to learn together.”

In particular, Beard says, the exhibition catalog (produced and distributed by Fujifilm) is an excellent opportunity for the participating artists:

It is often difficult to find an audience for one’s work or to “breakthrough” as an artist, especially when there is a plethora of images constantly inundating us, and on top of it, images are easily and immediately accessible. It can also be overwhelming to try to figure out how to get your work out there or to find good opportunities for one’s work without it costing a small fortune.” 

A stated goal of the Homecoming Biennial Exhibition and associated events is to create a cohort rather than a competition, for which Beard expressed gratitude and enthusiasm: 

“I do understand that competition can and does occur plenty [in the art world] – I just don’t want to participate in that. With that being said, art can be a pretty personal and sometimes isolating experience, so when collaboration feels right, I think it can be wonderful… It can be really difficult out there without a solid artistic community; it can start to feel like you’re on an island, so continuing to find your people can make things more fun and, also, fruitful.”

Homecoming 2 - By Lisa Beard
Image by Lisa Beard.

Since graduating from Maine Media’s MFA program, Beard says she continues to create work that is more layered and complex, imbued with a deeper understanding of who she is as a person and an artist. Of her experience working with her mentors throughout the program, Beard says:

“My three mentors – Elizabeth Greenberg, Howard Greenberg, and Charlotte Dixon – invested in my work and believed in me even when I second-guessed myself, which was often. I know that how they guided, pushed, and taught me, in combination with some of my own qualities like tenacity and dedication to learning new things while taking artistic risks, ended up paying off in ways I couldn’t have predicted.”

“Having the consistency of being able to look and talk through work and suddenly having that end after years of intensity can be hard, but it is also sort of the point: a major goal of the MFA program is for an artist to develop a sustainable art practice. Finding the right people to trust and talk to, to bounce ideas off of, and to find an audience for one’s work can be difficult and take a lot of time. This MFA Homecoming event was a really nice way to meet like-minded people who have recently graduated and are facing the same successes and failures. That’s been something I have been hoping for, so it was great for me in that way.”

Beard is scheduled to teach a workshop on the Maine Media campus next summer. During the workshop, Making Photographs from Photographs: Creative Methods to Enhance your Visual Voice, students will learn to use source photographs to craft new and compelling imagery and creatively expand their projects and artistic vision. The workshop will run from July 15-19, 2024. Enrollment is now open!

The Homecoming Biennial Exhibition will be on view at RIT City Art Space in Rochester through January 14th. Learn more here.

The 3 year low-residency MFA program at Maine Media College is for artists interested in engaging in a rigorous educational experience leading to an MFA in Media Arts. Students work in various media art forms including photography and filmmaking as well as interdisciplinary and transmedia forms. Produce original creative work under the guidance of experienced mentors and participate in a community of artists striving for artistic growth through highly individualized practice and study.

All images copyright Lisa Beard.

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