student making art

The Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art is a full-time, two-year, sixty-hour degree. Students complete coursework in studio art, art criticism, art history, free electives as well as thesis work.

In the School of Art, committed faculty, who actively exhibit and publish nationally and internationally model the high standards we hold our students to in the visual arts, art history and art education. Our students individually challenge, explore and push the boundaries of their given field, whether it be establishing an independent vision or perspective in the studio, exploring new facets of art history or developing their own voices as art educators. Through this diversity, our programs offer students a strong, self-motivated course of study where majors have meaningful contact with faculty across disciplines, methodologies and practices.

Requirements for completion of the MFA program

The student must complete 60 hours of course work in studio art, art criticism, art history and electives, attend International Summer Study Initiative, pass all required examinations, complete thesis work and participate in the MFA thesis exhibition. This is a full-time in residence 2-year program.

More information may be found in The Graduate School Bulletin.

MFA in Art - Graduate School Bulletin

Admission to Candidacy

To be formally admitted to candidacy for the MFA degree, students must have successfully completed two semesters of full-time graduate work, including ART 622 and ARH 503, removed all deficiencies, possess a minimum of a B (3.0) average in all courses taken during the first two semesters, and have an overall grade record consistent with the regulations stated in The Graduate School Bulletin. In addition, the application to candidacy must be approved by a committee of the Art Department graduate faculty to be appointed by the department head. The committee will meet with students to review work and sign candidacy forms early in the fall semester of the second year of graduate work. Students are limited to two candidacy reviews. If a student is not admitted to candidacy during the first review, the review team will issue written recommendations for further studies. The second review will take place by the end of the third semester. Failure to pass candidacy for the second time will prohibit the student from continuing in the program.

Comprehensive Examinations

Oral Thesis Presentation

In the spring semester of the graduating year, each MFA candidate will give a formal oral presentation to their thesis committee in the presence of their thesis work.

Thesis (2-6 hours capstone experience)

After passing candidacy review in the fall semester of the final year, the student and the Thesis Chair consult together to name the remaining members of the committee. The Director of Graduate Studies reveiws the membership of the committee before the student begins thesis. The committee consists of 4 to 5 faculty members who have graduate status at the University. Part time faculty do not serve on thesis committees. At least one member of the committee must be studio faculty that teaches in the same discipline as the student’s studio practice and one other member must be an art historian. Students may select a faculty member from another department in the University but this faculty member should pursue scholarly research that relates to the student’s field of interest. Thesis Chairs are selected from the studio art or art history faculty.

Early in the final semester of thesis work, the student arranges a meeting with the thesis committee to discuss all aspects of final thesis work, including thesis paper, the oral presentation, and the thesis exhibition. The thesis paper should be 5 to 10 pages in length, conform to Graduate School requirements, and be signed by all committee members before it is electronically submitted to the Graduate School. The body of work submitted for the thesis exhibition must receive final approval of all thesis committee members.

The Constitution of Thesis Committees

The thesis chair and the student consult together on the remaining members of the committee.
The Department Head and the Director of Graduate Studies will review the membership of the Committee before the student begins thesis work.

The Committee should consist of four to five faculty members who hold graduate status in the program. Part time faculty do not serve on thesis committees. One member of the Committee should be a studio faculty member who teaches in the same discipline as the student’s studio pursuit. One other member should be an art historian. It is optional for the student to select a faculty member from another department or school on campus. This faculty member should be pursuing scholarly or research work that relates to the student’s field of interest.
Thesis chairs can be selected from the studio art, or art history faculty.

The thesis chair in consultation with the student should arrange two thesis committee meetings in the first semester of the final year of study. A comprehensive schedule to include thesis meetings (a minimum of four), and all relevant dates leading to graduation should be completed by the beginning of the student’s last semester. A copy of this schedule will be submitted to the Head of the Art Department and a copy will be made for the student’s permanent file.

Service on thesis committees should be limited to four per faculty member.

Guidelines for Writing an MFA Thesis Paper

By Richard Gantt

Here are some thoughts and guidelines for writing your MFA thesis paper. First of all, it will be useful to you if you have a clear idea of your paper’s importance in the scheme of things.

Since we stress your studio work – its evolution, production, content, formal and technical concerns, and its exhibition – it is tempting to undervalue the written paper. However, since the MFA is an academic degree, the paper is the formal record of your accomplishments toward that degree. In fact, in the future, it will quite likely be the sole record of your efforts. The works themselves will scatter after the exhibition closes. Their number will diminish as time passes. The slides that you so carefully prepare and submit have a short life by archival standards. Your paper, due to its exacting standards of production and professional maintenance in the library, is likely to be what lives beyond the collected and individual works, the slides, and even you. Recently a researcher came to this campus to find out about an artist and writer of international reputation who received her MFA here in 1952. The work that constituted the thesis is now gone. The faculty who taught the artist are all dead. The written thesis is the surviving witness to the artist’s early involvement in the arts and her first professional experience. So perhaps with this in mind, it is easier to gauge the significance of your paper and the care you will want to take with it.

The Graduate School provides guide sheets for its requirements for written submissions. Even if someone else is typing your work or putting it into the proper format, get your own copy of the requirements from the Graduate School. Read it for yourself and see that its standards are followed. If your paper fails to meet any of these standards it will be rejected. They WILL check your paper, and their standards and deadlines are not flexible.

Writing about nonverbal work can be exasperating, but there are simple ways to start which will help you. It is reasonable to divide your attention on your art into areas that you will want to comment upon. What is important? – media, formal properties (size, scale, color, texture, line, shape, space, etc.), subject, autobiographical aspects? If you describe your art by keeping your observations focused on topics you will be a long way toward completing the main labor involved in the production of your paper. Each topic will cover a significant aspect of your art, and together they will form the paragraphs that will give your paper structure and needed clarity. Remember, you are writing for others. If your readers find that they cannot trust your paper because it is unfocused, rambling or contradictory, they are not likely to trust that your art has any consequence. You wouldn’t either if you were encountering the material for the first time in someone else’s paper.

Thesis Misconceptions

By Robert Boice

  1. Writing is inherently difficult. In fact, good writing is not much more difficult than collegial conversation. Both writing and conversation carry the risk of being criticized, and both, when not practiced, carry the potential that faculty will be isolated and unheard.
  2. Good writing must be original. In fact, little, if any, of what we think or write is truly original. Much of what we cherish bears repeating, especially in new perspectives.
  3. Good writing must be perfect. This is no more true for writing than for social conversation. Successful authors are more likely to realize that perfect manuscripts are unattainable, perhaps even undesirable.
  4. Good writing must be spontaneous, and good writers await inspiration before beginning. Writers who await inspiration court writer’s block.
  5. Good writing proceeds quickly. The same writers who procrastinate often believe that writing, once underway, should occur effortlessly and that manuscripts should be finished in one or a few marathon sessions.
  6. Writing is best done in binges. Many writers believe that writing requires large blocks of uninterrupted time – at least whole mornings, better yet, whole days, whole vacations, whole sabbaticals or retirement.

An Outline of Principles for Writing

  1. Establish one or a few regular places for writing, places where you do nothing but write. Make writing sites sacred by removing distractions such as magazines.
  2. Limit social interruptions during a writing session by closing your office door, posting a writing schedule, unplugging your phone and enlisting others to help you observe your schedule.
  3. Find another writer to join you for quiet periods of writing, preferably in surroundings with few distractions, such as a library.
  4. Make more valued activities (such as newspaper reading) contingent on writing first for a minimum period of time. Write while you are fresh (in the morning, if possible) in brief and regular daily sessions.
  5. Plan to work on specific finishable units of writing in each session. Plan beyond daily goals, scheduling stages of manuscript completion over weeks.
  6. Share your writing in its most formative stages, while constructive critics can still offer advice that you can use.
  7. Write in brief, daily sessions whether or not you feel ready.