The Graduate School
G-1 Communications Building
Seattle, Washington 98195-3770
Bonderman Fellow, Master of Fine Arts
Even after deciding to earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Texas at El Paso, George Rodriguez still wasn’t sold on the need for a graduate education. But once he decided on art as a career, graduate school seemed the next logical step.
George looked at a few programs nationwide before deciding on the University of Washington.
“The UW has one of the best ceramic programs in the world. In the country, it’s usually ranked the top five—sometimes the top three,” George reflected. After going through a competitive application process, he felt lucky to be offered a spot in the program and a first year research assistantship through the Graduate Opportunities & Minority Achievement Program, or GO-MAP.
Having only lived in El Paso and traveled through the Southwest, it wasn’t the overcast conditions in Seattle that affected George the most. Instead, it was the change in community.
“I came from a population in El Paso where I think 80 percent is Hispanic. When I moved here, not hearing Spanish, not getting the food that I was used to… that’s what affected me the most.” But with his program starting soon after he moved to Seattle, George was able to form a community with other peers, making the transition that much easier.
George’s advice for students looking to build a network? “Start with the peers in your program. Make an effort to seek out things you enjoy. The music scene in Seattle, for example is fantastic. Don’t be holed up or get discouraged if it takes a while. Eventually, things get rolling.”
Having returned from a nine-month Bonderman Travel Fellowship in December, George said that the experience has changed him in ways that aren’t easy to articulate.
“My art is based a lot on community and where I place myself within a community. Through these world travels, my community just got larger.”
As George thinks about the ways his travels in Asia, South America and Europe will influence his ceramics, he wants to be sure this process isn’t forced. After traveling for a year without making art and just absorbing it, he’s still trying to make sense of all that he has experienced. In leading with what was familiar to George before leaving on the Bonderman, he has no doubt that in time, his travels will make their way into his work.
Two years out of graduate school, George says that his master’s program has been valuable in giving him the facility to talk about his artwork, why and how he creates his pieces and in introducing him to a network of artists and peers who have helped him build his career by providing criticism and validation of his work.
These days, George can be found at Pottery Northwest, where he is a resident artist.