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Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute Centralizes Its Formerly Diffuse MFA Fine Arts Studios

The school’s studios for graduate students in Fine Arts are now all housed under one roof, in the hulking former Pfizer factory on Flushing Avenue.

A graduate student in the Pratt MFA Fine Arts studios at the Pfizer Building
Graduate student Chip McCall in the Pratt MFA Fine Arts studios at the Pfizer Building (all photos by Daniel Terna, courtesy Pratt Institute)

Starting this semester and for the first time ever, all of Pratt Institute’s Fine Arts graduate students are working together under one roof. In August, the Brooklyn college started welcoming art students into a suite of new studios on the seventh floor of the Pfizer Building, a former pharmaceuticals factory at 630 Flushing Avenue on the border of South Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy, and Bushwick. Formerly, the MFA Fine Arts studios had been spread across the Pratt campus and in nearby buildings.

“The school has been looking to integrate the entire MFA program to one location for at least 20 years,” Gerry Snyder, dean of Pratt Institute’s School of Art, told Hyperallergic. “The move represented an opportunity for Pratt to shift some spaces around to accommodate  the MFA program, while also opening space up on campus for Design.”

The Pratt MFA Fine Arts studios at the Pfizer Building
The Pratt MFA Fine Arts studios at the Pfizer Building

The new facility, which fills some 33,000 of the labyrinthine building’s 660,000 square feet, boasts 81 individual studio spaces, a computer lab, fabrication shops, classrooms, and more, with natural sunlight aplenty. It brings together all of the students in Pratt’s MFA of Fine Arts program, which includes five areas of concentration (painting and drawing, photography, sculpture, printmaking, and “integrated practices,” aka installation, public art, and performance). A free shuttle bus ferries students between the Pfizer Building and Pratt’s main campus, about a mile to the west.

“Last year, this studio facility was little more than a rumor,” Chip McCall, a current MFA candidate and the co-president of the Pratt Artists League, told Hyperallergic. “During that time our studios were spread thin over the entire Pratt campus, with one additional facility within 15 minutes’ walking distance. Gone are the days of spending nearly a quarter of our critique classes trudging from studio to studio.” McCall added that the most valuable aspect of the move was its creation of a “renewed sense of community throughout the program.”

In addition to all being together on one floor, the Pratt art students now have some choice neighbors. Other levels of the factory — which Pfizer built in 1946, shut down in 2008, and sold to developer Acumen Capital Partners in 2011 for $26 million — host a cornucopia of tasty tenants, including high-end food companies, small-batch distilleries, off-site facilities of the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, and Pratt’s own business incubator, the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator.

“In the past, no single location had more than 20–30 students (some with less than 10), and many were situated in hard-to-find areas,” McCall said. “This restricted the students’ ability to view and experience the diverse array of work being made by the majority of their classmates.” Now, he said, “there is an infectious sense of urgency and drive towards the creation of new work.”

The students will get to show off that new work and their new Pfizer Building workspaces during the upcoming Fine Arts MFA Open Studios on November 12.

A class in the Pratt MFA Fine Arts studios at the Pfizer Building
Professor Ann Messner addresses a class in the Pratt MFA Fine Arts studios at the Pfizer Building
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