Program of Study

2016-2017 Graduate Academic Catalog


Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts

Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts

The Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts program at the College of Art and Design is dedicated to creating a structure where growth and exploration are fostered not only while the student is enrolled but for the entire course of a lifetime of creative work. The program’s low-residency format provides a structure in which artists seeking a graduate degree can develop their artistic vision while integrating their creative work into the fabric of their daily lives. Through seminars in critical theory, aesthetics, and visual culture, critiques of their work, and directed independent study, the program encourages students to define, refine, and strengthen their vision as artists.

With the guidance of their MFA faculty academic advisor, students design their own studio and academic plan for each semester. The interdisciplinary focus of the MFA program encourages students to explore the integration of a variety of visual arts media over a sustained exploration of the context in which visual culture is located. Students advance their study of art history, culture, and critical thinking through the rigorous academic components of the program. Students increase their awareness of how their work relates to worldwide traditions of visual culture and art making. Alongside the development of the student’s studio practice, the MFA program broadens the student’s knowledge of visual arts as a profession by offering seminars in professional development—including relationships with galleries, grant and proposal preparation, public and private commissions, and the ongoing development of art making and media presentation skills.

The College of Art and Design MFA in Visual Arts program is designed to be completed in two years and is comprised of five ten-day residencies separated by four approximately six-month-long semesters of independent creative work and study.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts degree requires the following:

  • Successful completion of 4 semesters in the MFA program including attendance and participation in all 5 residencies and post-residency studio and academic work for a total of 60 credits as below:

    Studio components: 48 credits, 12 credits per semester

    IGRST 5100, IGRST 5200, IGRST 6100, and IGRST 6200 Graduate Independent Studio Project I-IV

    Academic components: 12 credits, 3 credits per semester

    IGRCT 5100, IGRCT 5200, IGRCT 6100, and IGRCT 6200 Graduate Critical Theory I-IV

    IGRFS 6200 Graduate Final Seminar: Thesis (Non-credit)

  • Mastery of chosen artistic media from both a technical and an aesthetic perspective. Evidence of this will vary from medium to medium, but must include a consistent and sustained body of work in the student's chosen discipline or disciplines.
  • Mastery of the context in which the student's work is situated, very broadly defined as visual culture. While this will vary from discipline to discipline, the student must demonstrate a substantive engagement with the critical issues that define the studio practice.
  • Participation in the graduate exhibition with the studio work at the final residency.
  • Thesis presentation at the final residency. The thesis should demonstrate a clear understanding of various criteria for making judgments about studio work and the student's chosen media as well as evidencing the ability to engage in a sustained research project.
  • Presentation of an artist talk with visual illustrations. The talk should be a discussion of the student's work as a visual artist in relation to the student's thesis.

Final approval for granting the Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts is made by the MFA faculty and with the approval of the program director.

The Residencies

During the residencies, student show their work to the MFA community and hear the responses it generates in group and individual critiques. Students participate in required and elective seminars in critical theory, aesthetics, art history, and professional practices; visit the area's great pubic art collections; and attend lectures, demonstrations, and presentations by guest artists and the faculty.

During the residency, each student, in consultation with faculty advisors, develops an individualized plan for studio and academic work. The student accomplishes this in their home community during the six month semester prior to the next ten-day intensive residency. The ten-day residencies are high-intensity conversations about the production of visual art. Time during the residencies is very structured. The combination of critiques, seminars, lectures, panels, conversations, and advisor meetings during the residencies are designed to make the student a stronger visual artist. Lectures and seminars are presented by MFA faculty, visiting artists, critics, and curators. Each residency includes at least one field trip to a cultural institution in the greater Boston area. The residencies are an opportunity for each student to develop, expand, and question their artistic vision in a process that culminates in studio and academic work plans (developed in consultation with faculty advisors) for the period of the semester that takes place between residencies.

Exhibitions:  Each graduating student must participate in a final exhibition in one of several exhibition spaces at the college. During the final residency, each student delivers an artist talk on his/her work and submits a written thesis paper. To graduate, the student must be approved by the faculty and the director of the program.

Critiques: All students participate in both group and individual critiques with MFA faculty and with visiting artists, critics, and curators. The goal of these critiques is two-fold: to give each student an opportunity to hear how his or her work communicates to others and to give students an opportunity to hear how artworks are discussed. Students have multiple opportunities throughout the residencies to hone these skills.

Visiting Artists: During the residencies, artists, art critics, and art historians from throughout the art world present lectures, lead panels, and become active participants in the dialogues about art and art making. Complementing the expertise of College of Art and Design faculty, the visiting artists discuss and present their work and ideas, and participate in critiques of student work.

Required Seminars: During each residency, every student participates in seminars on art critical, theoretical, and historical topics. The goal of these seminars is for each student to locate his or her work in a cultural/historical context.

Elective Seminars: Small groups of students meet with a faculty member to discuss selected topics in visual arts. These topics may include technical or formal issues, professional considerations, and questions of the relation of art to society. Announcement of topics of elective seminars is made before the beginning of each ten-day residency.

Planning Sessions: During the latter half of each residency, in consultation with their faculty advisor, students devise their studio and academic plans for the coming semester, which include readings, papers to be completed, and studio goals to be achieved prior to the next residency period. Students are expected to relate their academic work to their own work as artists.

Studio Work

IGRST 5100, IGRST 5200, IGRST 6100, and IGRST 6200 Graduate Independent Studio Project I-IV: 12 credits per semester

All students work in their community in their own studios with a local an artist mentor who has expertise in the student’s discipline. Occasionally students elect to travel to work with an artist who does not reside in the student's local area.  The artist mentor is a practicing artist or teacher for whom the student has an affinity. This mentor must be approved by LUCAD. The student, in conjunction with their MFA faculty advisor at LUCAD, devises a scope of work to be accomplished over the course of the semester. The artist mentor then meets with the student at least once a month, for a minimum of four times over the semester, to discuss the student's progress. Over the course of the semester, the artist mentor sends the program a mid-term evaluation, which is shared with the student and faculty advisor. At the close of the semester, the artist mentor submits a final evaluation to the program, which is also shared with the student and faculty advisor. These evaluations are used to help the student understand the strengths and weaknesses of their studio project for the semester. For each residency the student brings the work that was produced over the course of the previous semester for critique, discussion, and grading. The student is expected to devote at least 20 hours per week to studio work. All grades are pass/fail.

Academic Work

IGRCT 5100, IGRCT 5200, IGRCT 6100, and IGRCT 6200 Graduate Critical Theory I-IV: 3 credits per semester
IGRFS 6200 Graduate Final Seminar: Thesis (Non-credit)

During the residency the student, in conjunction with the student's MFA faculty advisor, devises a program of individual study. This study is conceived as a sustained inquiry into the student's own artistic interests through an examination of relevant issues in art history, critical theory, aesthetics, and the work of other artists. Over the course of the semester, the student reads articles and books, visits relevant exhibitions, and often attends conferences and workshops. During the semester, the student is in monthly contact with the faculty advisor to discuss the progress of his or her academic progress. Three short papers, each no more then 1,500 words, explore the themes and issues of the study in relation to the student's work. Additionally, the student is expected to write an artist statement at the end of the semester that can be used as a basis for discussion of the student's interests and work during the ensuing residency. The student is expected to devote at least 5 hours per week to academic work.  All grades are pass/fail.

Critical Theory Seminars

During the first four residencies, the student participates in a mandatory Critical Theory Seminar. For each of these seminars, prior to the residency, the student receives a link to online readings or a list of readings to obtain, and an outline of the upcoming seminar meetings. The readings are to be competed before the beginning of the residency. These Critical Theory Seminars provide a basis for discussions both within the seminar meetings and during the critique sessions. Additionally, one of the student's 1,500 word papers should address the critical theory readings from the previous semester.

The Thesis

In the final semester, the student writes a 15-20 page (4,000-5,000 words) thesis. The thesis is a discussion of the student's work and interests situated within the critical, artistic, and cultural landscapes of contemporary art discourse. The purpose of the thesis is to provide the basis of a public dialogue about the student's work. By the end of the second semester, the student should identify a thesis topic and discuss with the MFA faculty advisor how to best address the issues in the thesis. Over the third semester, the student should investigate the ideas underlying the thesis and perform any necessary additional research. An outline of the theses is due at the end of the third semester. The fourth semester is spent writing the thesis. If the student has been systematic in his or her research, then it should be possible to craft the thesis topic, outline, and parts of the thesis by revisiting the short research papers that the student has written over the previous semesters. The thesis is defended by the student in the fifth and final residency and also is the basis of the Artist Talk, which is given in the fifth and final residency.