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

Art History I: Exploring the Interdisciplinary
Autobiography of Place I
Studio Practice Review I

SPRING I

Foundations of Criticism I
Autobiography of Place II
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: Challenging the Conventional
Artists' Writings
Studio Practice Review III

SPRING II

Foundations of Criticism II
Studio Practice Review IV
Thesis Preparation

THIRD YEAR

SUMMER III

Graduate Seminar III
Studio Practice III
Thesis


Summer I

In addition to the required courses that follow, first-year art practice students must register for one video and sound editing workshop and two additional multi-media electives each summer session.

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 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 I

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.

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.

Fall 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. We will trace the history of modernism in relation to the notion of interdisciplinary art. 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.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF PLACE I

Through a series of interviews with artists and other creative professionals, as well as related reading and viewing materials, students explore the notion of place: where and how we live, how we connect to various communities and how we situate creative practice into daily life. Students also complete a series of short production assignments and engage in group critiques via online learning environments.

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

Foundations of Criticism I

Understanding prominent theoretical positions within art criticism—past and present—is the focus of this course. We will begin with theories of the image from cave paintings to advertising, film theory to the comic strip, video to the digital image and current debates in animation studies. Classical writings from philosophy (e.g., Plato), art history (Panofsky, Greenberg, W.J.T. Mitchell) and film theory (Eisenstein, Bazin), as well as writers such as Apollinaire and DeLillo will be examined. We will also cover semiotics, feminist theory and institutional critique, reading key theorists such as Barthes, Benjamin, Baudrillard and Debord, among others.

Autobiography of Place II

This is the second part of a two-semester course. In the spring semester, students will create their own autobiographies of place—robust personal works with accompanying written components. Students will be divided into groups for discussion, analysis and critique of their works in progress.

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 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. 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

Students will work with the Art Practice staff to create the programming for this symposium. Programming may include guest lectures, panel discussions, student presentations and/or an exhibition. Under the guidance of the Art Practice staff, students will work with each other to secure appropriate venues, create any announcements, and create and follow a detailed budget, including speaker fees, technical fees, documentation fees and promotional fees.

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' Writing

The significant interventions that visual artists have made through their own writing into the art criticism of their time will be the focus of this course. We will also explore a range of artists’ writing forms such as journalism, manifestos, poetry, theoretical writing, letters, artists’ books and artist-run publications. The course will also examine some key artists’ writings from Russian constructivism to the Bauhaus, surrealism, abstract expressionism, minimalism, conceptual art and feminism. Assigned readings, writings and online group discussions are included. The role of social engagement in the production of individual (or collective) practice will be emphasized, and students will acquire an understanding of the influence of artists’ writings on various forms of art criticism. A deeper understanding of one’s own writing in relation to the development of one’s 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

Foundations of Criticism II

This is the second part of a two-semester course. The spring semester will focus on interdisciplinary concerns, particularly the intersection of art and music history, art and the history of science, as well as the relationship of critical theory to changes in technology, and evolving concepts of authorship, originality and ownership. There will be assigned readings, writings and weekly web-based group discussions.

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.