Patricia Olson
Master of Fine Arts in Visual Studies
Associate Professor at St. Catherine's University; Director of the Women's Art Institute

In a couple sentences, describe what you do for work and how you feel about it.

I'm an associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History at St. Catherine University. I am also the director of the Women's Art Institute. Teaching and working with enthusiastic students is a great privilege.

How did you get your jobs? 

Before I became an academic, I ran my own graphic design company for over twenty years, the Cats Pajamas, in St. Paul. I decided to go back to school for an MFA degree so I could teach at the college level. When I applied for the job at St. Kate's, I had a brand-new degree and twenty years of experience in the design business. 

What inspires you and your work?

As a feminist, I am in dialog with art history to paint and present images of women who are confident and powerful. 

Why did you choose MCAD for your MFA? Do you feel it was the right choice?

I choose MCAD for my MFA because of its program flexibility—I could work on what called to me and did not need to follow a rigid schedule. As a working adult with a family, the time flexibility was also important. Absolutely the right choice for me.

What did you enjoy most about your MFA experience?

Being in a place where art was always around and everyone was passionate about their work.

What kind of work did you make in the program? 

I started studying graphic design, but the painters in my cohort were having way more fun. So I ended up painting a life-sized, narrative series based on an ancient Roman mural: The Mysteries. I exhibited it with a complementary website.

Where did you get your undergraduate degree? What was that experience like?

I majored in studio art at Macalester College. It was the 1970s and everything was up for grabs—it was an exciting, confusing time.

Do the Twin Cities offer many opportunities for creatives?

Sure, but it's best to make your own opportunities. 

What advice do you have for current MCAD students?

Don't be focused on the grade, but rather be open to the experience.