MFA in Visual Art Curriculum

Our new curriculum

Launching in fall 2021, the new MFA in Visual Art curriculum promotes a rigorous and immersive approach to graduate study in art. Combining Graduate Studio, Group Critique, Graduate Seminars, Electives + Workshops, and the Summer Independent Project, the program maximizes the context of the broad and diverse community at Washington University and in St. Louis.

In the Graduate Studio, students work independently with the guidance of a primary faculty mentor, and enjoy regular encounters with a broad range of other faculty and visitors. Students are expected to support and drive each other to make work and take their ideas as far as they can go. Your time in the MFA-VA program is a singular experience in your artistic journey: we want each of our students to thrive in their chosen paths.

Group Critique is the heart of the curriculum. A mix of first- and second-year students meet for rigorous weekly critiques to share new work and engage in lively, constructive discussion. These groups also serve to integrate the entire program as a supportive yet demanding cohesive group invested in their community—individually and collectively.

Students take a sequence of required seminars—one each semester—on professional practice, research methods, thesis exhibition, and writing. Beginning with the First-Year Colloquium and culminating with Thesis & Exhibition Preparation, the sequence grounds students in their practice within the Sam Fox School community and in St. Louis; engages students in research methodologies; prepares emerging artists for professional careers; and supports students in the development of their final thesis text and museum exhibition.

MFA-VA students can enroll in electives across the Sam Fox School and the University that build upon their research interests. Each semester, students also participate in required, one-credit workshops to build essential technical and professional skills. Students can select from workshops in the Sam Fox School (like Fox Fridays), through the University's Skandalaris Center or Teaching Center, or in settings around St. Louis.

During the summer following the second semester of the program, MFA-VA students create projects supported by independent research. Projects can be accomplished in your Sam Fox School studio or by engaging in partnerships or residencies with arts organizations. In alternating years, students have the opportunity to participate in our Sommerakademie in Germany. Each student develops a proposal for their project in the spring of the first year. The experience culminates in an exhibition of completed projects at the beginning of the fall semester

An environment for research

The Sam Fox School is an integral part of Washington University's diverse academic community, which is home to some of the world’s leading experts in both the humanities and the sciences. Its enormous resources include a system of 12 libraries, a professional media production center, two observatories, an environmental field station, our own Kemper Art Museum, and much more. Each year, through the University’s Assembly Series and other campus events, students can attend lectures by important cultural figures, including authors, activists, entrepreneurs, scientists, and legislators. Notable visitors include Claudia Rankine, Gloria Steinham, John Lewis, and Ai Weiwei, who visited campus in fall 2019 as part of our own Public Lecture Series.

What do these resources mean for you?
During your time in the program, your interests and practice may necessarily shift (sometimes in unpredictable ways!). You might want to collaborate with a student dance troupe on a performance piece you’re developing. Or consult with a geologist about making your own pigments from crushed stones. If you work with language, you may want to invite a member of the creative writing faculty to a critique or to be part of your review board. As your practice evolves over the course of the program, you’ll have all the resources you need—at hand—to adapt. Immersed in this rich research environment, our students are ideally equipped to develop ideas and artworks of consequence and significance.

Connecting with your peers
Within the School, you’ll be able to engage with students and faculty (and their work!) in our MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture program, as well as our graduate Architecture, Urban Design, and Landscape Architecture programs. Your incidental encounters with these individuals can have an enormous influence on what you make and how and why you make it. WashU also has top graduate programs in creative writing, social work, and the sciences. And, several Sam Fox School faculty have joint appointments in other departments such as American Culture Studies; Performing Arts; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; African and African-American Studies, so they can help connect you with students and faculty in those fields. You’ll find most people to be generous with their time and resources and eager to share with you.

The Graduate School of Art subscribes to the standards for the MFA degree set forth by the College Art Association (CAA) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).