Curriculum

The MFA Art Practice program’s course of study addresses a wide range of intellectual, aesthetic, technical and practical concerns. An underlying thread across the curriculum is the ability to situate one’s creative practice within a thoroughly considered social context.

The program’s low-residency framework comprises three intensive summer residency periods on SVA’s campus in the heart of Chelsea in New York City, and four semesters of rigorous, highly interactive rich-media coursework that can be completed from anywhere in the world. Throughout the program, each artist also works under the close guidance of an assigned mentor.

Artists in the program engage in research-based practices, and are encouraged to converse and collaborate across subject matters using a combination of traditional and non-traditional media, technologies and techniques. Students combine personal narrative with critical theory to create works that comment on societal issues. The atmosphere is one that promotes experimentation without fear of failure.

Degree candidates must successfully complete 60 credits, including all required courses. The final summer semester includes the public presentation of a thesis project and accompanying written thesis document.


First Year

SUMMER I

Graduate Seminar I
Studio Practice I
Video & Sound Editing Workshop
Elective Workshop (2)

FALL I

Foundations of Criticism
Artists’ Writings
Studio Practice Review I

SPRING I

Art History I
Autobiography of Place
Studio Practice Review II

 

SECOND YEAR

SUMMER II

Graduate Seminar II
Studio Practice II
Performance Workshop
Participant Symposium
Professional Development

FALL II

Art History II
Artists' Writings*
Studio Practice Review III

SPRING II

Art & Politics
Art & Pedagogy
Studio Practice Review IV
Thesis Preparation

THIRD YEAR

SUMMER III

Graduate Seminar III
Studio Practice III
Thesis


Summer I

GRADUATE SEMINAR I

In this foundational seminar, students develop their own art practice in conjunction with a deeper understanding of contemporary issues in art, theory and politics. Topics of special discussion include social engagement, collaboration, transdisciplinary practice and personal narrative.

STUDIO PRACTICE I

The core of the summer session is studio practice. The objective is to produce original advanced work with instruction and support from faculty and a robust roster of individual artists. Individual studio visits will primarily take place from Monday through Friday, with weekly group critiques on Tuesdays. Studio Practice is the central element and primary requirement of the program. Studios are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

PRACTICE: Lunchtime Lecture Series

The Lunchtime Lecture Series explores visual representation in myriad forms as modes of inquiry for artists, writers, and other creative professionals. The series invites internationally recognized artists, curators, critics and scholars to give presentations to the MFA Art Practice community. Guests then stay for the afternoon and participate in a program-wide group critique. The 2017 lecture series included Martha Rosler, Roberta Smith, Andrea Fraser, John Cohen and Brainard Carey. 

Video & Sound Editing Workshop (Beginning or Intermediate - Advanced)

Through various methods including instructor-led workshops, field experiments, studio production and group critique, students will explore practices for creating audio and video projects, possibilities for installation, multichannel works and performance. The workshop includes screenings of film, video and sound work from modern and contemporary artists. It considers the use of media as both a document and final product. 

Elective Workshop: Ceramics

Students in this workshop will have the opportunity to explore ceramics as a tool for their individual practice. We will cover practical hand building, mold-making and cast ceramics, among other techniques. 

Elective Workshop: Fibers

Students in this workshop will have the opportunity to explore fibers as tools for their individual practice. A series of demonstrations that explore 2D and 3D surfaces will introduce the traditional methods of sewing, felting, dyeing, knotting and weaving. Digital demonstrations will explore pattern design and creating costumes and wearable art for performances, videos and photographic works, and using soft sculpture and fiber projects for installations. Current trends and historical examples of fiber art and costumes will be discussed.

Elective Workshop: Nature and Technology Lab

Students in the workshop will have the opportunity to explore the biological realm as it relates to art practice. Demonstrations include microscopy, plant tissue engineering, molecular cuisine and the production of micro ecosystems. Students will be encouraged to discuss and explore how biomedical sciences alter social, ethical and cultural values in society. The workshop will take place in the Nature and Technology (NAT) Lab, which houses microscopes for photo and video, skeleton collections, specimen collections, slide collections, and herbarium and an aquarium as well as the library.

Elective Workshop: Digital Sculpture

Making sculptures using computer-aided fabrication and rapid prototyping machines is the focus of this workshop. Students will learn how to make templates for sculptures using Adobe Illustrator and SolidWorks, and how to use machines like the Epilog laser cutter and the CNC router "ShopBot" to create fully realized 3D objects from their designs. 

Fall I

Foundations of Criticism

Through the revision of material pertaining to different disciplines, this course provides a panoramic view of some fundamental conceptual and critical issues that have arisen in the last two centuries or so in the spheres of Art, the World and the Individual. Through close examination of texts by Hegel, Baudelaire, Benjamin, Barthes, Foster, Rancière, Jameson, Freud and Lacan, we will consider how the emergence of a ‘new’ conception of the world and of a globalized economic system have imploded into transformations of the consideration of ourselves, of privacy and intimacy, of our relationships and of our location in an increasingly accelerated but also close and ‘familiar’ world. Most importantly, we’ll consider how such fundamental transformations affect art production.

Artists Writings

This course will explore a range of artists’ writing forms, including journalism, manifestos, poetry, theoretical writing, letters, artists’ books and artist-run publications. Students should develop an understanding of the research process, including finding sources, organization, and proper academic formatting and citation. A deeper appreciation of one’s own writing in relation to the development of one’s artistic practice will be underscored throughout the semester.

STUDIO PRACTICE REVIEW I

During the fall and spring semesters, online study sessions will take place and students are expected to continue their studio work from their home location. Students and mentors will remain in contact, via email, video conferencing, phone calls and/or in person meetings. At least five reviews of work-in-progress during each semester will take place, either virtually or in person, depending upon the locations of the student and his or her mentor. Students are also required to post and comment on one another’s work online.

Spring I

Art History I: Exploring the Interdisciplinary

To better understand the role of art history in preparing and developing one’s own artistic direction, this course will explore and critique the conventional masterpiece-based notion of art history from several perspectives. Starting in the mid-19th century with examples of gesamtkunstwerk, the course examines the impact of this kind of thinking through an exploration of key examples of contemporary interdisciplinary art. In response to a wide range of primary source readings, audiotapes, video and film, students will write a series of critical responses to the readings, and participate in online group sessions and discussions. The second half of the course will explore how cultural shifts are articulated through the intersection of art, politics and pop culture.

Autobiography of Place

Through a series of interviews with artists and other creative professionals, students explore the notion of place: where and how we live, how we connect to various communities and how we situate creative practice in daily life. Students also complete robust personal works with accompanying written components, including an abstract, a personal statement, a project description, documentation, a resource list, and a statement about process and methodology.

Studio Practice Review II

See Studio Practice Review I

Summer II

Graduate Seminar II

In this foundational seminar students develop their own art practice in conjunction with a deeper understanding of contemporary issues in
art, theory and politics. Topics of special attention include social engagement, collaboration, transdisciplinary practice and personal narrative. Through class discussions, group critiques and one-one-one studio visits, students will work with both core faculty and a robust roster of visiting artists. 

Studio Practice II

This is the second part of a three-semester course in which original, advanced work will be produced with instruction and support from faculty and a robust roster of individual artists. Studio visits primarily take place from Monday through Friday, with weekly group critiques on Tuesdays. Studio Practice is the central element and primary requirement of the program. Students will present proposals for their thesis projects for feedback and approval. Once the project has been approved, it will be the focus of each student’s studio practice for the final year of the program. Studios are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Performance Workshop

Formally born in the early 20th century—as a critique of the economic engineering of the art world through the European painting salons for the bourgeoisie—and influenced by cabaret, theater, dance, psychodrama, feminist, queer, civil rights, political and environmental activism, performance practice has many traditions. Until recently, it was an alternative practice that offered few collectibles. Participants in this workshop will explore silence and walking as public performance art following Buddhist notions of mindful presence, engaging the city as laboratory. The group will function like an ephemeral company of soloists and collaborators in which students will perform and discuss a series of daily exercises.

Participant Symposium

Under faculty guidance, students will collaborate to create the programming for this class, including guest lectures, panel discussions, student presentations and/or an exhibition. Past participant symposium programming has included a screening of participant works at Electronic Arts Intermix; an exhibition at Present Company Gallery; panel discussions on topics such as Art and Activism, Alternative Spaces, and Alternative Economies; field trips to Mildred's Lane and Storm King; site visits to Mike Perry Studio; the artists-in-residence studios at Abrons Art Center; studio visits with Oliver Herring, Trevor Shimizu, Paddy Johnson, Jesse Greenberg and MacGregor Harp; and guest lectures from Ester Partegas; Lauren Cornell; Suzanne Bocanegra and Diana Al-Hadid. 

Professional Development

It is increasingly necessary for artists to have a solid understanding of the legal and fundamental business practices central to an independent art practice. This series of professional development workshops will address areas such as copyright and intellectual property laws, financial literacy for artists, grant writing and marketing and networking. 

Fall II

Art History II: CHallenging the Conventional

Looking at the history of modern art from a non-Western perspective requires the complete suspension of several commonly held assumptions about art history. That would not make any more sense than a blind acceptance of the prevailing historical paradigm. This course will contrast the canonical history of modernism with the emerging histories that rely upon a very different reading of the social and political context in which art history is conventionally taught. In response to a wide range of primary source readings, audiotapes, video and film, students will write a series of critical responses to the readings, and participate in online group sessions and discussions.

Artists Writings

This course will explore a range of artists’ writing forms, including journalism, manifestos, poetry, theoretical writing, letters, artists’ books and artist-run publications. Students should develop an understanding of the research process, including finding sources, organization, and proper academic formatting and citation. A deeper appreciation of one’s own writing in relation to the development of one’s artistic practice will be underscored throughout the semester.

Studio Practice Review III

During the third online semester, in addition to maintaining a studio practice and receiving regular feedback from a mentor, students also begin working with a thesis advisor on a thesis project and document. Students are required to meet specific project and document deadlines, and regularly post and comment on one another’s work. 

Spring II

Art & Politics

Drawing on art history, philosophy and political theory, this course explores and strategies for creative interventions in the political arena. Topics of discussion will include race, gender, bio-politics, identity, power structures, public space, cultural policy, censorship and social justice.

Art & Pedagogy

This course explores pedagogical strategies for art practice, including collaborative dialogues, action research and experiential learning. Topics of discussion will include the role of art in society, aesthetic inquiry into social systems, institutional critique, artist accountability and evaluation of social practice projects.

Thesis Preparation

A thesis project and accompanying written thesis are graduation requirements for the MFA Art Practice program. Under the guidance of the instructor and an individual thesis advisor, students will work to formulate the central ideas that will become their theses, and will consider appropriate strategies for the research, form, presentation and distribution of their ideas.

Studio Practice Review IV

See Studio Practice Review III

Summer III

Graduate Seminar III

In this foundational seminar students develop their own art practice in conjunction with a deeper understanding of contemporary issues in
art, theory and politics. Topics of special attention include social engagement, collaboration, transdisciplinary practice and personal narrative. Through class discussions, group critiques and one-one-one studio visits, students will work with both core faculty and a robust roster of visiting artists. 

Studio Practice III

The core of the summer sessions is studio practice. The objective is to produce original, advanced work with instruction and support from faculty and under the guidance of an individual mentor, who will offer ongoing critical evaluation. Reviews will primarily take place from Monday through Friday, with weekly group critiques on Tuesdays. Studio Practice is the central element and primary requirement of the program. As such, it is expected that students will make notable progress in their individual practice. Studios are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Thesis

Each student will produce a complete body of new work with guidance and support from faculty and under the guidance of an individual mentor. MFA Art Practice students are required to produce a thesis project and a thesis document, and create an archive of each. The thesis represents the culmination of each student’s work in the program, and is a central requirement for the completion of the degree. During the final week of the course, each student will present his or her thesis project and accompanying written thesis document before a Thesis Committee.

  • Our curriculum is currently in transition and some courses appear duplicated across years. This won’t be so for each cohort’s course of the program.