About Open MFA

Open MFA is an artist collective that provides community, dialogue, and cross-disciplinary collaboration for artists based in the Houston area. The artist-run organization is shaped by everyone who takes part—participation is free and open to artists of any discipline. 

Open MFA provides accessibility to arts education by creating space for community and collaboration amongst artists on the periphery of Houston’s art scene. Inspired by desirable elements of a traditional MFA program, we create opportunities for artists to share knowledge and skills, explore new ideas within their individual practice, and gain intellectual and social exchanges between each other and the broader public. We invite artists, who may otherwise take on student debt to pursue an MFA program, to challenge their work and have meaningful conversations with a community of artists. We are a resource for artists to continue their education—whether they already have a University degree, intend to pursue one in the future, or want to pursue an alternative route.

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Fresh Arts

Open MFA is a fiscally sponsored project of Fresh Arts, a non-profit arts service organization. The Fresh Arts fiscal sponsorship program unlocks support for individual artists and collectives existing outside of traditional nonprofit models. Through the program, Fresh Arts can open the door to new streams of support for our city’s independent artists, while providing fiscal oversight for utilizing charitable funds.

Contributions for the purpose of Open MFA must be made payable to Fresh Arts and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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What We Do
Open MFA hosts meet-ups, artist talks, exhibitions, and group projects throughout the year. At minimum, we organize at least one meet-up each month. Previous meet-ups have been held at Lawndale Art Center, The Menil Collection park, and The Orange Show. Open MFA has hosted group exhibitions at Flatland Gallery, curated by Erica Reed Lee, and Raven Tower, curated by Megan Olivia Ebel. Open MFA has hosted 10 digital artist residencies and visiting artist talks with artists including Havel Ruck Projects and Michael Menchaca.

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Gathering What's Tangible Installation View
Our Story
Open MFA was founded in 2016 by artists Marion Tu and Amanda Powers. Hillaree Hamblin, Ryan Hollaway, and John Galindo became integral parts of developing the community-led group which hosted group critiques, conversations about Houston art, museum and exhibition meet-ups, and collaborative projects; including the Open MFA Digital Residency. In 2019, Erica Reed Lee joined the organizational team, contributing to programming and communication for the community. Erica Reed Lee established Open MFA’s email newsletter, which compiles resources and news about Houston art. Between 2016 and 2020, Open MFA hosted 10 digital art residencies with artists such as Mayra Huerta and Matt Manalo. Since 2019, Open MFA has expanded its scope of community outreach to include artist talks with artists such as j.bilhan, Mich Stevenson, Havel Ruck Projects, and Michael Menchaca. In 2022, Open MFA organized its first group show. The pop-up exhibition at Raven Tower was curated by Megan Olivia Ebel and featured 14 artists. In May 2022, Open MFA will host a two-week group exhibition at Flatland Gallery. Open MFA is currently organized by Erica Reed Lee, Ryan Hollaway, Hillaree Hamblin, and Amanda Powers.

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